Margiotta out, but runoff will decide school board control

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

With all precincts reporting tonight, control of the Wake County school board hangs on one race that's heading into runoff after Democrats captured four of the five seats outright.
Based on unofficial returns, Democrats ousted school board chairman Ron Margiotta and held on to three other seats occupied by members of their party. With the board now standing 4-4, the outcome rests on the District 3 contest, which looks to be headed toward a runoff.
Democratic school board member Kevin Hill picked up 49.7 percent of the vote with all precincts reporting, barely falling short of the majority needed to secure the seat. Republican challenger Heather Losurdo, who finished second with almost 40 percent of the vote, said this evening that she would request a runoff election against Hill on Nov. 8.
Susan Evans' victory over Margiotta, who has led the school board since the Republicans gained the majority in the 2009, is a stunning upset. Evans picked up 52 percent of the vote in Southwest Wake's District 8, which leans Republican.
Democratic board member Keith Sutton cruised to an easy victory in District 4 with 81 percent of the vote.
Jim Martin picked up 67 percent of the vote in District 5 to beat Cynthia Matson.
Christine Kushner picked up 59 percent in the four-person field to win in District 6.
Today's elections came at the end of the most expensive and likely most contentious school board campaigns in Wake County history.
A blitz of TV commercials in the last days of the campaign saw hard-hitting ads aimed at school board chair Margiotta and his opponent, Evans. Many of the mailers and ads came not from the campaigns themselves, but from groups that under election law are supposed to operate separately from the candidates.
The balance on the Wake County school board after the new board takes office in December will likely have a profound effect on the future of the schools system and its long-debated assignment plan.
Previous administrations had attempted to balance school populations, based first on race and later on families' economic background. The board that came to power two years ago discarded the use of diversity as a factor in assignment and made other changes to longstanding policies.
When voters in District 8 went to the polls today they had the choice of retaining Margiotta, a Republican, or moving to a different philosophy with his Democratic opponent Susan Evans. The elections overall had the potential of overturning the Republican majority, maintaining it, or increasing it. The school board is officially nonpartisan, but split largely along party lines on most important issues.
Republican board member Debra Goldman, who wasn't up for re-election today, remains a wild card who has sometimes voted with the Democrats.

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