With all precincts reporting, the two new Board of Education members are Paula Barone and Steve Thompson, who finished in what was nearly a dead heat, 3,476 votes for Barone and 3,477 votes for Thompson, or 25% each. The two incumbents, Watson (19.6%) and Hughes (7.4%) , came in 4th and 5th, respectively, with Robert Kirk in third place with 23%.
It’s a little hard to interpret this outcome. On the one hand, the two incumbents (Watson and Hughes) were defeated, but on the other hand the ‘ticket’ of Thompson and Kirk, who closely associated themselves in the campaign, was split. From the point of view of the handling of the Freshwater affair the results are inconclusive. Barone was perceived as supporting the Board’s handling, and in fact her son Joe testified for the Board in the administrative hearing and Paula addressed a Board of Education meeting about it last year. So I can’t clearly interpret it in either direction if it’s taken as a referendum on the issue of Freshwater’s situation. If one adds what might be crudely interpreted as the pro- vs. anti-Freshwater vote (Thompson+Kirk vs Barone+Watson+Hughes), the split is 48% pro to 52% anti. That’s torturing the data a fair amount–“pro” and “anti” are crude designations and there were other issues in the campaign. But it’s suggestive of the kind of split there is in the community.
Mt. Vernon voters elect two members of the five-member Board of Education tomorrow, and I’ll be very interested to see the results. Two incumbents, current Board President Ian Watson and Steve Hughes, are running, as are Paula Barone, a former teacher and Mt. Vernon City Council member; Steve Thompson, a vice president in a major local company; and Robert Kirk, an administrator at the Knox County Career Center (formerly Joint Vocational School). To the extent that the election is interpreted as a referendum on the handling of the Freshwater situation, Watson, Hughes, and Barone are generally perceived as supporting the current Board’s actions and Thompson and Kirk are seen as opposing the current Board’s handling of the affair.
The main publicly debated issue in the election is finances, with Thompson and Kirk charging fiscal mismanagement on the part of the current Board and Watson in particular defending the record of the current Board.
Thompson and Kirk are out-spending the others by a large margin, as much as an 8-1 margin according to mid-October filings, and there are indications that the disparity has grown since then. Kirk has had to return some illegal corporate donations to his campaign, and questions have been raised about his having possibly commingled personal and campaign funds. So far no official body is acting on the allegations to my knowledge.
I won’t venture to predict the outcome, though I know what I’m hoping for. I’ll post an addendum to this post tomorrow night when the outcome is clear.