Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Pike Township School Board Race

I spent a day in the sun handing out literature at Guion Creek Elementary School (and have a terrific sunburn as proof), one of the biggest polling locations in the county. We had a lot of political bigwigs stop by: Terry Curry (twice), Greg Bowes, Andre Carson, Carlos Mays, John Layton, Frank Anderson, Beth White, Cherish Pryor and more.

I was a little curious that no Republicans were out pushing literature, but that may well be because it's a 2-1 Democratic area. One thing I found shocking about the turnout is that while probably 75% of the voters at Guion are typically African-American, yesterday's turnout was at least 50-50 if not majority white. I hadn't seen that high of a percentage of white voters voting at Guion in about 16 years. Many of the older white voters I talked to had come out to vote "No" against the building of a new Guion. The trouble with the "No" side though was it wasn't organized and it istough to turn out people on a referendum in a low-turnout election. You end up with an election dominated by school people who favor such things as more taxes for new schools. That's exactly why the Wishard referendum was held as a special election - low turnout means it will be dominated by supporters fo the referendum. The Guion Creek referendum ended up passing 70-30. While there is vehement opposition in the district to these endless construction projects that is costing taxpayers dearly, I think there has to be an organized opposition to the projects or they will continue to succeed.

In the school board race we had 13 candidates running for 3 positions. Allison Maguire and I ran as a team. Allison finished 5th and I finished 6th. If school board were held during a general election, I think we would have done considerably better. The trouble we constantly faced was trying to convince the 75% of homeowners/taxpayers without kids in Pike schools that they had a stake in the outcome of a school board election and should vote for school board. With school board elections are held at the same time as he primary, education-types and the self-interested 25% dominate while the 75% stay home or vote in the primary or vote in the primary while not voting in the school board election. I wish the legislature would move the school board elections to the Fall where they really belong.

There was one shocking outcome of the school board race. One candidate, Eric Huffine, had worked his tail off and I expected to quite possibly be the top candidate. He knocked on 4000 doors, had the most yard signs by far throughout the township, did literature drops, great website and had a terrific team working the polls. He was a thoughtful, experienced candidate who was going to bring a lot to the table and would have been independent-minded as opposed to the current rubber stamp board. Frankly, I expected Huffine to be possibly be the No. 1 candidate. I figured the top five candidates would be Huffine, John Brown (the incumbent), Regina Randolph, Allison and myself, with Huffine possibly leading the pack.

That turned out to be correct except for one surprise entry in the quintet. Yvonne White was a candidate who didn't get active until the last minute, who only participated in one debate, put one-sided yard signs out (without a disclaimer) only about 10 days ago, and did no apparent campaigning until Election Day. I figured White was a second tier candidate at best. Yesterday though some administration-types began pushing Brown, White and another candidate, an African-American preacher named Carl Liggins. Liggins didn't fare well finishing well down in the pack, but White appears to have finished third by 42 or so votes edging out Huffine for the final position.

It's hard to believe the Election Day push for White made that much difference, especially since the Liggins example suggests where the baseline should have been for that late effort. Possibly the voters confused her name with the popular Marion County Clerk Beth White. Who knows. But the ultimate effect was that the late-to-the-campaign White pushed out the much more deserving Huffine who worked his tail off for months and who also had one of the strongest poll efforts.

I will talk about some of the other races in a separate post.


educated voter said...

Fortunately MONEY did not talk in this local race. The candidate with the deep pockets and more yard signs did not come out on top. Your past blogs have been helpful. They even helped me to decide who I voted for. [And yes I even voted for you.] BUT in this blog I do not believe all your facts and intuition are correct.
Thoughtfulness can be deceiving.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I wasn't making any reference to money but rather to organization and turnout. I didn't get the sense that any school board candidate had that much more money than anyone else (including Huffine) or that money made any difference in the election. Yard signs are not that expensive once you hit the bulk thresholds. I didn't see anyone do any mass mailings to people.

The only one who did really expensive advertising was Randolph's Indy Star but frankly most professional political advisers will tell you that such newspaper advertising is not effective and a waste of money. I doubt the newspaper ad played much of a factor.

I was trying to make the point that school board election turnouts tend to be dominated by people closely connected to the schools: teachers, adminstrators, parents with children in the schools. It really tough getting the 75% without kids to turn interested (and voting) in school board elections, especially when it's held at the primary.

I personally did not like Huffine's blanket endorsement of the "Blue Ribbon" plan which will keep the district borrowing money to knock down and rebuilding not only Guion, but Eastbrook (which has already been rebuilt), Eagle Creek and College Park, which is barely 20 years old.

But other than that I thought Huffine was a strong candidate who worked incredibly hard. Certainly he was a lot more deserving than Yvette White who didn't appear to be doing any campaigning, and shockingly somehow ended up in the top 3.