A high-stakes election brought a mixed bag of victories and losses for conservative organizers driving Idaho school board elections.
Partisanship became a part of school board elections during this year’s elections more so than in years past. In turn, a string of board shakeups is now on tap after a contentious election season.
Below, Idaho Education News rounded up some of the biggest decisions voters made at the polls Tuesday.
Conservative sweeps in the Treasure Valley
Two of Idaho’s most heavily contested and politicized school board races ended in conservative sweeps.
West Ada. In the state’s largest school district, Lori Ann Frasure and Angie Redford — candidates endorsed by the local GOP in the nonpartisan race — beat out their Democrat-backed opponents, albeit by different margins. Frasure defeated Brent Hart with 64% of the vote, and Redford defeated Anita Beckman with 54%. Here are more details about these candidates.
Frasure, who has a bachelor’s degree in business management from Idaho State University, has lived in Meridian for 16 years. Aside from vocal pushes against mask mandates and critical race theory, she said in an interview with the political talk show “Red Wave Radio” that she’s supportive of using federal coronavirus relief money on tutoring programs, as the district plans.
Redford is a graduate of Timberline High School and Boise State University and earned an undergraduate degree in history, she said on Red Wave. During that interview, she lamented “tone deaf” comments from the West Ada board related to masking.
Nampa. A trio of candidates who campaigned on opposition to mask mandates, critical race theory and universal social-emotional learning won out and will make up the majority of the district’s five-member board come Jan. 1. Brook Taylor (63%), Jeff Kirkman (65%) and Tracey Pearson (66%) all captured nearly two-thirds of the vote Tuesday. Their opponents — Sarah Riley, Patrick Tanner and Chandra Reyna, respectively — were all making their first runs for public office. Here are more details about these candidates.
In addition to their politically charged platforms, Kirkman and Pearson had engaged with the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a conservative group, as the only candidates in Nampa or West Ada to complete surveys focused on the Foundation’s choice education issues.
In a candidate forum hosted by the Nampa Chamber of Commerce, Kirkman said he appreciated educators who took the time to help him understand what social-emotional learning is. But he doesn’t think teachers should be required to act as counselors in addition to their other responsibilities, as previously reported by the Idaho Press.
Caldwell. Trish Robertson beat Britany Gish with 58% of ballots. Gish had campaigned on a conservative platform, decrying sex education, mask mandates and critical race theory.
Robertson, in contrast, campaigned on a platform of pro-masking and continuing the district’s policy of consulting scientific experts on COVID-19 protocols.
Kuna. Teacher Kim Nixon survived a challenge from GOP-backed Mike Ambler, pulling 55% of the vote. But fellow incumbent Sallie Ann McArthur was ousted by Kyrsti Bruce, who took 40% of the vote in a three-candidate race. McArthur was next closest, with 35%, while Eleanor Hurst pulled 25%.
Middleton. The Middleton board will change shape after challengers prevailed over incumbents in both races. Cynthia Powell beat trustee Kirk Adams with 58% support, and Jay Clark defeated trustee Aleisha McConkie with 54%.
Vallivue. Board chair Jeff Forsberg took only 15% of the vote and will be replaced by Clay Christensen, who took 63%. Christensen’s fellow challenger, Jackie Groves, also beat out Forsberg, with 22% of ballots.
Kootenai County races take on partisan overtones
Post Falls. In an open trustee race that drew national coverage, Jake Dawson won with 53% of the vote. Dawson defeated David Reilly — who came under scrutiny for his far-right ties and a string of anti-Semitic tweets. Despite the controversy, Reilly ran with the support of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee. Here are more details about these candidates.
In Post Falls’ other races, Logan Creighton ousted incumbent Bridget Malek by only 12 votes, and Guy McAninch won an open trustee’s race with 60% of the vote. Both Creighton and McAninch carried the GOP Central Committee endorsement.
Coeur d’Alene. Three narrow races, and a mixed result.
Allie Anderton ousted incumbent Lisa May, capturing 52% of the vote. In one open race, Lesli Bjerke defeated Lindsey Swingrover by only 23 votes. Rebecca Smith won a second open race, capturing a 52% majority to defeat Glen Campbell.
The GOP Central Committee endorsed Anderton, Bjerke and Campbell.
Lakeland. David Quimby won an open trustee’s race with 54% of the vote. Bob Jones captured a 55% majority to defeat incumbent Debbie Major.
The GOP Central Committee endorsed Quimby and Major.
Trustee Michelle Thompson also survived the sole school board recall attempt made in Idaho this November, with 55% of voters opposing her ouster.
Kootenai. Incumbent Heather Wilcox was re-elected with 55% support. Challenger Cheri Thaut ran up a 63% majority to oust incumbent Tom Reinhardt. Ellie Getchius won an open three-person race with 43% of the vote.
The GOP Central Committee endorsed two unsuccessful candidates: Richard Meyer, who challenged Wilcox; and Vicki Haney, who finished third in the race won by Getchius.
Task force members lose handily
Incumbent Blackfoot trustee Sonya Harris received only 32% of the vote Tuesday, falling to challenger Cleon Chapman.
In Sugar-Salem, Elaine King received only 36% support, as voters re-elected incumbent Kristin Galbraith.
McGeachin, a GOP gubernatorial candidate, assembled the task force to investigate claims of indoctrination in K-12 schools and higher education.
A rough night for incumbents
Across Idaho, 47 incumbent school trustees sought re-election Tuesday.
Only 26 — or 55% — managed to win.
Incumbents lost in some of Idaho’s largest districts, such as Coeur d’Alene and Bonneville, and rural districts from St. Maries to Basin to Aberdeen.
In Middleton and Mountain View, voters turned out two incumbents apiece.
In Jerome and Parma, incumbents lost to write-in candidates.
Here’s a list of the 20 incumbents who lost Tuesday.
Mike Shackelford (Aberdeen); Brent Adamson (Basin); Sonya Harris (Blackfoot); Scott Lynch (Bonneville); Bruce Thompson (Cassia County); Lisa May (Coeur d’Alene); Jackie Cook (Jerome); Tom Reinhardt (Kootenai); Sallie Ann McArthur (Kuna); Gary Suppiger (Lake Pend Oreille); Debbie Major (Lakeland); Aleisha McConkie (Middleton); Kirk Adams (Middleton); Rebecca Warden (Mountain View); Kaylana Matthews (Mountain View); Paige Goodson (Parma); Dave Mattson (Pocatello-Chubbuck); Bridget Malek (Post Falls); Pete Diriam (St. Maries); Jeff Forsberg (Vallivue); Margaret Chipman (Weiser).
Three districts had supplemental levies on Tuesday’s ballot. All three were successful.
West Ada. Voters narrowly reupped the district’s two-year, $28 million supplemental levy, lending 52% support.
The levy pays for staff salaries and daily operations. If the levy wasn’t renewed before expiring in the summer of 2022, it could have resulted in staff cutbacks or a shortened school calendar, Superintendent Derek Bub said at a recent Boise Metro Chamber meeting.
“We’ve taken hits in education,” Bub said. “We hope that we (can) get it under our belt and move forward” by sustaining current operations with the levy funding.
Minidoka County. Voters renewed its two-year, $4.5 million supplemental levy with 59% support.
Buhl. The district earned 60% support for a two-year, $800,000 levy. That’s an increase from an expiring $700,000 levy.
Originally posted on IdahoEdNews.org on Nov. 3, 2021