Four incumbents ousted in Alabama school board elections

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August 28, 2013


by Alex Schaffer and Nick Katers

On August 27, two of the largest cities in Alabama held municipal elections for school board positions. A total of twenty-five candidates vied for nine positions on the Birmingham City Board of Education, while fourteen candidates sought eight positions on the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education. Only three races in the two elections went uncontested.

Three incumbents ousted on Birmingham City Board of Education

Birmingham, Alabama: Three incumbents on the Birmingham City Board of Education successfully defended their seats on the board. Board Vice-President Brian Giattina ran unopposed in District 3, while incumbent President April Myers Williams defeated two challengers. Wardine T. Alexander, who was appointed to the board in March, narrowly defeated two opponents to earn her first electoral victory.[1] The three remaining members of the "Gang of Five" board coalition, who controversially attempted to fire Superintendent Craig Witherspoon, did not fare as well as their fellow incumbents.[2] Tyrone H. Belcher, Sr. finished third in the District 1 race, which will feature a runoff election between Sherman Collins, Jr. and Douglas Ragland.[3] Political newcomers Lyord Watson, Jr. and Sandra K. Brown also soundly defeated veteran board members Virginia S. Volker and Emanuel B. Ford.[4]

Runoff elections will take place in Districts 1, 4 and 6 on October 8, 2013. Daagye Hendricks and former Birmingham City Schools administrator Gwen Sykes will compete in District 4, while the District 6 runoff will feature Cheri A. Gardner and Gwendolyn Thomas Bell.[4] Once the election results are officially certified, the Birmingham City Board of Education will have six fresh faces.

The following results are unofficial vote totals from the Birmingham school board election:[5]

District 1
RunoffArrow.jpg Sherman Collins, Jr.: 970
RunoffArrow.jpg Douglas Ragland: 862
UncheckedBox.jpg Tyrone H. Belcher, Sr.: 780
UncheckedBox.jpg Jerry Tate: 585

District 2
CheckedBoxOffset.jpg Lyord Watson, Jr.: 1,510
UncheckedBox.jpg Virginia S. Volker: 927

District 3
CheckedBoxOffset.jpg Brian Giattina: Unopposed

District 4
RunoffArrow.jpg Gwen Sykes: 1,235
RunoffArrow.jpg Daagye Hendricks: 1,185
UncheckedBox.jpg Rodney Huntley: 570

District 5
CheckedBoxOffset.jpg Martha Casey McDowell: 1,821
UncheckedBox.jpg Randall L. Woodfin: 766

District 6
RunoffArrow.jpg Cheri A. Gardner: 1,231
RunoffArrow.jpg Gwendolyn Thomas Bell: 898
UncheckedBox.jpg Lavon Beard: 598
UncheckedBox.jpg Ervin Philemon Hill Sr.: 450
UncheckedBox.jpg Joy A. Smith: 320

District 7
CheckedBoxOffset.jpg Wardine T. Alexander: 1,911
UncheckedBox.jpg Lawrence Jackson: 1,480
UncheckedBox.jpg Darius Moore: 343

District 8
CheckedBoxOffset.jpg April Myers Williams: 1,785
UncheckedBox.jpg Patricia Bozeman-Henderson: 1,071
UncheckedBox.jpg Antwon B. Womack: 261

District 9
CheckedBoxOffset.jpg Sandra K. Brown: 2,717
UncheckedBox.jpg Emanuel B. Ford: 1,142

Incumbents remain in control of Tuscaloosa Board of Education

Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Incumbents maintained control of the Tuscaloosa Board of Education despite a well-funded effort to oust them in order to reform board policies. Voters returned James Minyard, Harry Lee, Marvin Lucas and Erskine Simmons to the board in competitive elections while Earnestine Tucker ran unopposed for the District 2 seat. Newcomers Lee Garrison and Cason Kirby won narrow victories for the Chair and District 4 seats while Norman A. Crow ran unopposed in District 3.[6] Campaign contributions to challengers from Educate Tuscaloosa PAC yielded mixed results as the group contributed at least $14,000 to defeated candidates Earnestine Young and Joe Gattozzi as well as Kirby.

On Election Day, an influx of University of Alabama students at the District 4 polls raised concerns about attempts to attract votes through indirect incentives such as free drinks and limo rides to voting locations.[7] Additional complaints in District 4 centered on a single address where ten voters had registered but none had resided.[8] A total of 8,627 votes were submitted on Tuesday, more than doubling the 3,127 votes cast in the 2009 board election.[9]

The following results are unofficial vote totals from the Tuscaloosa school board election:[5]

Chair (At-large)
CheckedBoxOffset.jpg Lee Garrison: 4,415
UncheckedBox.jpg Denise Hills: 4,212

District 1
CheckedBoxOffset.jpg James Minyard: 864
UncheckedBox.jpg Earnestine Young: 376

District 2
CheckedBoxOffset.jpg Earnestine Tucker: Unopposed

District 3
CheckedBoxOffset.jpg Norman A. Crow: Unopposed

District 4
CheckedBoxOffset.jpg Cason Kirby: 399
UncheckedBox.jpg Kelly Horwitz: 327

District 5
CheckedBoxOffset.jpg Harry Lee: 528
UncheckedBox.jpg Joe Gattozzi: 304

District 6
CheckedBoxOffset.jpg Marvin Lucas: 980
UncheckedBox.jpg John Lollar: 909

District 7
CheckedBoxOffset.jpg Erskine Simmons: 688
UncheckedBox.jpg Renwick Jones: 385

What comes next?

Runoff elections will take place for Districts 1, 4 and 6 in Birmingham on October 8, and six new members of the Birmingham City Board of Education will be sworn in on October 22. Incoming members to the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education will be sworn in on November 4, 2013.