Two incumbents and seven challengers will compete in November for three at-large seats on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board, at a time when the district is in the midst of a superintendent search and a student assignment review.
Ericka Ellis-Stewart and Mary McCray, the top two finishers in 2011, are seeking another four-year term. Tim Morgan isn’t running, but seven others with a history in public education and/or politics had joined the race when filing ended Friday.
While the issues are crucial, turnout in off-year elections tends to be low. That means candidates will spend the next 15 weeks crisscrossing the sprawling county in hopes of mobilizing people who support their views.
It also means professional, civic and neighborhood ties are important. Developments in the municipal races in Charlotte and the six suburban towns could shape who’s motivated to vote – and that, in turn, could sway the school board outcome.
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The races are nonpartisan, which means there’s no primary, no affiliation listed on the ballot and no straight-party voting. But that doesn’t mean political parties play no role.
Ask Elyse Dashew, who ran unaffiliated in 2011. That was the year local Democrats followed the GOP’s lead and promoted a party slate for school board. Dashew ran a vigorous, well-funded campaign but came in fourth, falling about 1,300 votes short of Morgan’s third-place finish.
Some speculated she couldn’t compete with the party support of Morgan, a Republican, and Democrats Ellis-Stewart and McCray.
This year Dashew is running as a Democrat. She joins the incumbents and challengers Angela Ambroise, Janeen Bryant, Levester Flowers and Amelia Stinson-Wesley.
In 2011, with no incumbents running, local Republicans started with four contenders (two withdrew before the election) and split bitterly over whom to support.
This year Jeremy Stephenson, a lawyer and first-time candidate, has the Republican field to himself. He entered the race with the endorsement of Morgan and several other GOP elected officials.
Larry Bumgarner, a former Republican, is now the sole unaffiliated candidate. It’s his fourth run for the CMS board, and he’s pledging to spend little money and take no salary if elected.
Ambroise, Bryant, Flowers and Stinson-Wesley are running their first school board campaigns, but all have a history with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
Stinson-Wesley served an appointed term representing District 6 from 2012 to 2014. Flowers and Ambroise applied earlier this year for the District 3 seat vacated when Joyce Waddell was elected to the state Senate. Bryant was a Teach for America cadet in CMS and took part in a leadership training program in which she shadowed board member Tom Tate.
CMS board candidates
These people will be on the at-large ballot Nov. 3. The top three will get four-year terms on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education. Campaign websites are listed where available. Find contacts for all candidates at http://apps.meckboe.org/CandidatePrint.aspx
▪ Angela Ambroise: First-time candidate who’s a Realtor and leader in Villa Heights community association.
▪ Janeen Bryant: First-time candidate and CMS parent; she works for Leadership for Educational Equity. http://www.janeenbryant.com/
▪ Larry Bumgarner: Retired IT business owner and online education/political activist making his fourth run for the school board. www.MakeLivesMatter.com.
▪ Elyse Dashew: CMS parent who works full time on education advocacy; making her second run for the board. http://dashewforschoolboard.com/
▪ Ericka Ellis-Stewart: A nonprofit executive and CMS parent who has held an at-large seat since 2011. www.ericka4cmsboard.com
▪ Levester Flowers: Retired banker and longtime CMS activist making his first run for school board. www.voteflowers2015.com
▪ Mary McCray: Retired teacher who has held an at-large seat since 2011 and chairs the board.
▪ Jeremy Stephenson: A lawyer who has been active in school zoning, making his first run for school board,. http://stephensonforschoolboard.com/
▪ Amelia Stinson-Wesley: A minister who served an appointed term representing the southern District 6, making her first run for the board. http://www.ameliastinsonwesley.com/