In the race for Harford County School Board, matchups for the 2014 general election were determined in Tuesday’s primary, where incumbents in each district got enough votes to keep their hopes of re-election alive, albeit with some facing stiff opposition in November. Notably, the primaries also eliminated nearly all of the candidates who made simultaneous bids for the Harford County Republican or Democratic central committee.
This election year marks the first time that school board seats in all six county council districts will be determined by election, rather than by gubernatorial appointment. The transition was set in motion by 2009 state legislation establishing a nine-member Harford County School Board, with six elected, plus three appointed members.
The non-partisan school board elections start with primaries in each district to determine the top two vote-getters who will face off again in November. While primaries are usually limited to voters registered as Democrats or Republicans, they are also open to unaffiliated voters in the school board races only.
In the Tuesday primary, Board President Nancy Reynolds turned in the strongest performance, winning by nearly 2,000 votes, and with 55% of the votes cast in the four way race to represent District D, North Harford. With provisional and absentee ballots still to be counted, project manager Mike Simon garnered the second most votes, with Chris Scholz, and Tishan Weerasooriya coming in third and fourth, respectively. Weerasooriya was also an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic Central Committee.
Reacting to her District D win, Reynolds said, “I’m extremely honored and humbled by the results of the primary election and will continue to work hard to ensure that our school system becomes the best in the state. I want to thank everybody for their support.”
Simon, who made a simultaneous, but unsuccessful bid for Republican Central Committee, will face Reynolds in November. He did not immediately return a request for comment.
In contrast to Reynolds’ decisive primary victory, incumbent board member Art Kaff came in second to challenger Rachel Gauthier in District E, Aberdeen/Churchville/Fountain Green. A school counselor outside of Harford County Public Schools, Gauthier came seemingly out of nowhere to beat Kaff by nearly 800 votes. Candidates Barney Michel and Stephen Eric Macko came in third and fourth respectively. Macko was also an unsuccessful candidate for the Republic Central Committee. Kaff and Gauthier will meet again on the November ballot.
Asked for reaction, Gauthier wrote in an email, “I am very excited about the primary election results! I would like to thank everyone who took time to vote…whether it was for me or not. I would also like to thank the gentlemen I ran against for such a pleasant campaign. I am looking forward to the next few months leading up to the November election and where this process will take me. The most important thing is to get another good advocate for the students and teachers of Harford county seated on the Board of Education and I think I am the best candidate for that role.”
Kaff wrote, “I am glad to advance to the general election. I believe I can win in November because I am an experienced board member and a parent of two children in Harford County Public Schools. I have made the difficult choices with our budget, selected our Superintendent, and will always advocate strongly for our students. I serve in the Army Reserve and was mobilized to Afghanistan in 2011. I wish to also continue serving my community on the Board of Education. My mention of military background in the Army Reserve does not imply endorsement by the Department of the Army or the Department of Defense.”
Also facing a tough race in November is incumbent Alysson Krchnavy, who came in 245 votes behind challenger Joe Voskuhl, a retired principal of Bel Air High School, in District C, Bel Air. Candidate John Anker placed third.
Asked for a comment, Krchnavy wrote in an e-mail, “What an experience! I am humbled by all the wonderful support I received yesterday! Moreover, I am energized to launch into the General Election!”
Voskul wrote, “I have enjoyed the opportunity to meet and share my views with parents, students, and fellow community members. My platform has been and will continue to be about change versus the status quo.”
Nearly tied in District F, Havre de Grace, incumbent Tom Fitzpatrick beat challenger Michael R. Hitchings by only 61 votes on Tuesday. Hitchings is a project and program manager for the federal government. Coming in third, candidate Joe Fleckenstein also lost his bid for Republican Central Committee.
Asked for reaction, Fitzpatrick wrote in an email, “ I had a marvalous time, met a lot of great people. I want to congradulate my opponants on their commitment, their passion, and strong campaigns. We will move this system forward, and I want to thank everyone for their vote. It reaffirms my commitment to rebuilding this system!”
Hitchings said, “I am very humbled by the overwhelming outpouring of support from educators, parents, and school aged students. The Michael Hitchings for Board of Education campaign will need that continued support as we drive forward to the November 4th General Election! The voters have my commitment that I have no hidden agenda. As a parent with 3 students in the Harford County Public School System I remain committed to the contractual obligations of our educators, and I will do the right thing, for all the right reasons in support of our most treasured resource – our children…..who are the future of Harford County.”
In District B, Fallston/Joppa, incumbent Bob Frisch won a three-way race, garnering 50% of the votes cast. Frisch will face second-place winner Laura Runyeon, president of the Youth’s Benefit Elementary School PTA.
Asked for comment, Frisch wrote in an email, “Getting the win during the primary election is gratifying and I believe a clear demonstration that voters are satisfied with my work on the school board. I do not take their support for granted and I will continue to be the voice of my community on matters related to our school system.”
Runeyon wrote, “I would like to thank the voters, the community, my friends and family for their continued support. I look forward to the November election and the opportunity to serve the parents and students of the County.”
The third place candidate in District B, Greg Johnson, also lost his bid for Republican Central Committee.
In District A, no school board candidates were on the primary ballot Tuesday because only two candidates – Jansen Robinson and Fred Mullis – filed to represent the Edgewood/Joppa area. Robinson and Mullis will therefore compete for the first time on the November ballot. The unique process caused some voter confusion in District A on Tuesday.
Below are all the results for school board following Tuesday’s primary election.