Tuscaloosa City School District elections (2013)

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2013 Tuscaloosa City School District Elections

General Election date:
August 27, 2103
Table of Contents
About the district
Method of election
Election history
What was at stake?
Key deadlines
Additional elections
External links
See also
Tuscaloosa County, Alabama ballot measures
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Eight seats on the Tuscaloosa City Schools Board of Education were up for citywide election on August 27, 2013. Voters chose seven members representing specific districts as well as a chair with each member serving a four-year term. Major issues facing the board included poor academic performance and recovery from a 2011 tornado.

The Tuscaloosa City School District is the 12th largest school district in Alabama. It serves 10,348 students as of July 2013.

About the district

See also: Tuscaloosa City Schools, Alabama
Tuscaloosa City Schools is located in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama
Tuscaloosa City Schools is located in Tuscaloosa County. Tuscaloosa is located northwest of the state capital, Montgomery. According to the 2010 Census, Tuscaloosa is home to 90,898 residents.[1]


Tuscaloosa lags behind the rest of Alabama based on median household income and persons below the poverty level but outperforms the state average in high school graduation rates. The median household income for Tuscaloosa is $34,359 when compared to $42,934 for the state of Alabama. The percentage of people below poverty level for Tuscaloosa is 29.6% while it is 17.3% for the state of Alabama. 85.3% of persons over the age of 25 have a high school degree, while 81.9% of Alabama residents have a high school degree. The 2010 U.S. Census found that 32.7% of Tuscaloosa residents aged 25 or older have a bachelor's degree, while the same rate is 22% for the state of Alabama.

2010 Census Data for Tuscaloosa, Alabama[1]
Race Tuscaloosa State of Alabama
White 53.8% 68.5%
Black or African American 41.5% 26.2%
American Indian and Alaska Native 0.2% 0.6%
Asian 1.8% 1.1%
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander Z 0.1%
Two or more race 1.1% 1.5%
Hispanic or Latino 3.0% 3.9%
White alone, not Hispanic or Latino 52.6% 67%

Note: The United States Census Bureau considers "Hispanic or Latino" to be a place of origin, not a race. Therefore, the Census allows citizens to report both their race and that they are from a "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin simultaneously. As a result, the percentages in each column of the racial demographics table will exceed 100 percent. Each column will add up to 100 percent after removing the "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin percentages, although rounding by the Census Bureau may make the total one or two tenths off from being exactly 100 percent.[2]

Method of board member selection

Seven members of the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education are elected by district to serve four-year terms while the Chair member is elected at-large. On August 27, 2013 there was a city-wide election for eight school board seats. Incumbents Sena Stewart Cooper and Dan Meissner did not seek re-election in District 3 and Chair respectively.[3]

Election history




  • Earnestine Tucker
    • Incumbent
    • Nurse Practitioner
    • Graduate, University of Alabama and Miles College

  • Norman A. Crow
    • President, D.T. Freight & Company
    • Graduate, University of Alabama

  • Kelly Horwitz
    • Incumbent
    • Attorney, Benedon & Serlin
    • Graduate, Northwestern University and University of Virginia
  • Cason Kirby
    • Attorney, Tanner & Guin
    • Graduate, University of Alabama

  • Harry Lee
    • Incumbent
    • Financial Advisor, Equitable Life Insurance
    • Graduate, University of Alabama
  • Joe Gattozzi
    • Property Appraiser, Gattozzi Valuations, Inc.
    • Graduate, University of Alabama

  • Marvin Lucas
    • Assistant Supervisor Lab/Phlebotomy Instructor, DCH Lab
    • Graduate, University of Alabama
  • John Lollar
    • Vice President, Robertson Banking Company
    • Graduate, Livingston University

  • Erskine Simmons
    • Incumbent
    • Warehouse Manager, JIT Services
    • University of Phoenix and University of West Alabama
  • Renwick Jones
    • Fund raising consultant
    • Graduate, Alabama State University and Auburn University

  • Lee Garrison
    • Vice President, Wells Fargo
    • Tuscaloosa City Council Member
    • Graduate, University of Alabama
  • Denise Hills
    • Research Geologist
    • Graduate, The College of William & Mary and University of Delaware

Election results

Incumbents retained four of the six contested seats on the board in 2013. Lee Garrison won the open Chair seat against fellow challenger Denise Hills while challenger Cason Kirby defeated incumbent Kelly Horwitz in District 4.

Tuscaloosa Board of Education Chair, 2013
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngLee Garrison 51.2% 4,415
     Nonpartisan Denise Hills 48.8% 4,212
Total Votes 8,627
Source: Fox 6 News These results are unofficial.
Tuscaloosa Board of Education District 1, 2013
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngJames Minyard Incumbent 69.7% 864
     Nonpartisan Earnestine Young 30.3% 376
Total Votes 1,240
Source: Fox 6 News These results are unofficial.
Tuscaloosa Board of Education District 4, 2013
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngCason Kirby 55% 399
     Nonpartisan Kelly Horwitz Incumbent 45% 327
Total Votes 726
Source: Fox 6 News These results are unofficial.
Tuscaloosa Board of Education District 5, 2013
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngHarry Lee Incumbent 63.5% 528
     Nonpartisan Joe Gattozzi 36.5% 304
Total Votes 832
Source: Fox 6 News These results are unofficial.
Tuscaloosa Board of Education District 6, 2013
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngMarvin Lucas Incumbent 51.9% 980
     Nonpartisan John Lollar 48.1% 909
Total Votes 1,889
Source: Fox 6 News These results are unofficial.
Tuscaloosa Board of Education District 7, 2013
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngErskine Simmons Incumbent 64.1% 688
     Nonpartisan Renwick Jones 35.9% 385
Total Votes 1,073
Source: Fox 6 News These results are unofficial.

What was at stake?

Every seat on the Board of Education was up for election on August 27, 2013. Five incumbents were returned to the board including James Minyard in District 1, Earnestine Tucker in District 2, Harry Lee in District 5, Marvin Lucas in District 6 and Erskine Simmons in District 7. The board will have a new chair as Lee Garrison defeated Denise Hills for the open seat. Newcomer Norman A. Crow won the District 3 seat without opposition and Cason Kirby defeated incumbent Kelly Horwitz for the District 4 seat.

A total of 8,627 votes were submitted on August 27, more than doubling the 3,127 votes in the 2009 board election.[4]


Failing schools

Tuscaloosa City Schools currently has four schools listed as failing according to the Alabama Accountability Act of 2013. Under the provisions of the act, parents of students in these schools may transfer their children to either a non-failing school in the same school system, a non-failing public school in nearby school system that's willing to accept the student or a state-recognized accredited private school. Parents who transfer their children to a private school are eligible for a private school tax credit worth about $3,500 annually per child that they'll receive when they get their tax returns.[5][6]

Tornado recovery efforts

The district is also recovering from a tornado that tore through the city on April 27, 2011. Progress in rebuilding school facilities has taken time with the Alberta School of Performing Arts re-opening as recently as April 2013.[7][8]

Influence of PAC money

Another factor in the 2013 board elections was the emergence of a political action committee (PAC) called Educate Tuscaloosa. The group founded by local businessman Michael Echols has raised $108,250 since April to support board reforms with mailers that criticize the current board’s failure to improve academic performance. A postcard sent by the PAC in April argued that the district was ranked 7th in Alabama in terms of funding but only 87th in the state for academic performance.[9][10] The PAC has donated $14,200 each to the campaigns of Cason Kirby, John Lollar and Renwick Jones. Joe Gattozzi received $15,200 from Educate Tuscaloosa through August 9 and Earnestine Young received $14,000 from the group. Every challenger except Lee Garrison and Denise Hills paid consulting firm Matrix LLC for campaign assistance and polling.[11]

In total, PACs and individual contributions yielded $181,000 in donations in 2013, which exceeded the combined amount raised in the past three election cycles. Candidates spent about $104,000 from campaign coffers between April and August 2013. Smaller contributions were made by NUCOR PAC ($11,000) and Pride PAC II ($3,000), which is also run by Echols.[11] The impacts of these donations were mixed as Young, Gattozzi, Lollar and Jones lost in the election while Kirby won the District 4 seat.

Allegations of voter fraud

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 including free drinks and limo rides to voting locations.[12] Additional complaints in District 4 centered on a single address where ten voters had registered but none had resided.[13] These allegations along with the narrow margin of victory led Kelly Horwitz to file a lawsuit against Cason Kirby in Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court on September 6, 2013. In the complaint, Horwitz alleges that, "Cason Kirby was declared the winner of the August 27, 2013 election for School Board District 4 of the city of Tuscaloosa, Alabama due to offers to bribe, bribery, intimidation or other misconduct calculated to prevent a fair, free and full exercise of the elective franchise."[14] Incoming board Chair Lee Garrison, who received significant student support during his successful 1997 campaign for the Tuscaloosa City Council, denounced these criticisms as "the height of hypocrisy" and insisted that, "There is no difference," between a candidate receiving get-out-the-vote assistance from a collegiate Greek system or from a teachers' union.[15] On November 14, 2013, Judge James Roberts dismissed the case and cited limited evidence of tampering or illegal submission of 200 ballots. Roberts noted that there was only evidence of tampering or illegal submission for 70 ballots.[16]

Key deadlines

The following dates are key deadlines for the Tuscaloosa City School District election in 2013:[17]

Deadline Event
July 16, 2013 Last day to qualify to run for office.
August 16, 2013 Last day to register to vote in the initial election.
August 22, 2013 Last day to cast a regular absentee ballot.
August 27, 2013 Mayoral, council, and school board 2013 election date
September 3, 2013 Canvassing of the initial election results
October 3, 2013 Runoff election if necessary
October 15, 2013 Canvassing of runoff election results
November 4, 2013 School board members assume office

Additional elections on the ballot

Seven seats on the Tuscaloosa City Council and the mayoral election were on the August 27, 2013 ballot. Incumbent Walt Maddox won the mayoral race without opposition and three members of the City Council were unopposed for re-election. City Council races in Districts 1 and 6 advanced to runoff elections held on October 8, 2013. Challenger Sonya McKinstry won more than 50% of the vote and defeated incumbent William Tinker in the District 7 race.[18]

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 U.S. Census, "Quick Facts: Tuscaloosa," accessed July 24, 2013 (dead link)
  2. United States Census Bureau, "Frequently Asked Questions," accessed April 21, 2014
  3. AL.com, "Tuscaloosa election slate set with last-minute challenge to Board of Education chairman" July 24, 2013 (dead link)
  4. Tuscaloosa News, "Tuscaloosa City Board of Education: Garrison wins close school board chair race," August 27, 2013
  5. Tuscaloosa News, "Residents turn out to talk about city schools," accessed July 23, 2013
  6. AL.com, "Four Tuscaloosa schools on 'failing' list under Alabama Accountability Act," June 18, 2013
  7. Alabama's 13, "Tuscaloosa school destroyed by tornado begins rebuilding," April 24, 2013
  8. AL.com, "Tuscaloosa to mark 2nd anniversary of tornado with events this week," April 22, 2013
  9. MyFoxAL, " PAC raising money to back challengers in Tuscaloosa School Board elections ," August 2, 2013
  10. Save Tuscaloosa Schools, "Home," accessed August 15, 2013
  11. 11.0 11.1 Tuscaloosa News, "School board races being backed by cash," August 18, 2013
  12. AL.com, "Sorority offered free drinks to members to vote in Tuscaloosa City Board of Education race," August 28, 2013
  13. Fox 6, "Secretary of State's Office aware of voter fraud complaints in Tuscaloosa," August 27, 2013
  14. AL.com, "Kelly Horwitz vs. Cason Kirby," September 6, 2013
  15. Campbell Robertson, The New York Times, "Secret Society Dips Toe in City Politics, Prompting Lawsuit," September 14, 2013
  16. ABC33/40, "Will Kelly Horwitz appeal election ruling?," November 14, 2013
  17. Tuscaloosa.com, "CITY OF TUSCALOOSA 2013 MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS CANDIDATE OVERVIEW" accessed July 24, 2013
  18. AL.com, "Incumbents in 3 contested Tuscaloosa city council races fizzle; 1 unseated, 2 head to runoffs," August 27, 2013