▪ Until provisional ballots are counted Monday, we won’t know if Ben Blankley’s 123-vote lead over incumbent Betty Arnold will hold up in the District 1 race for Wichita school board. Whatever the result, there is but one relevant question:
Would Arnold have been an easy winner had she resisted texting fellow board member Joy Eakins on Oct. 20?
Eakins’ opinion piece in that day’s Eagle, a reaction to a story about candidates’ concerns with school board transparency, was critical of other members of the board. It cited bullying and said transparency concerns were indeed true.
Arnold’s text to Eakins at 7:18 a.m. (later posted by Eakins on Facebook): “I feel sorry for you. I have not met such a hate filled public servant that is so hell bent on destruction to the point of lying. You truly are wicked!”
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No matter who you believe, it seems reasonable that the number of people who made their votes based on the text message will exceed Blankley’s margin of victory or show that, if Arnold is ahead after provisional ballots, her win would’ve been much easier.
Unless the result changes, Arnold will be the first Wichita school board incumbent to lose re-election since Marty Marshall was defeated by Lanora Nolan in 2001.
Always a good reminder: Step away from the keyboard or smartphone when angry.
▪ It’s not surprising that Ron Rosales won the school board seat for District 6, but his margin of victory raised eyebrows. He received 48 percent of the city-wide vote to 28 percent for Walt Chappell and 23 percent for Shirley Jefferson.
Rosales, who will be the board’s first Hispanic member, is a Haysville teacher who formerly taught in Wichita middle schools and was endorsed by the teachers union. Fellow teachers may have helped run up the score.
▪ No common theme resulted from Wichita board elections. A progressive (Blankley), district insider (Julie Hedrick), incumbent (Mike Rodee) and teacher (Rosales) were winners, barring a District 1 change with provisional ballots. Blankley is big on board transparency, the others not as much. More outspoken candidates such as Trish Hileman (District 2) and Walt Chappell (District 6) lost. Rodee got almost two-thirds of District 5’s votes, but considering his opponent did little but participate in candidate forums, it shows there were voters unhappy with his first term.
If Blankley holds on, January’s new board will have 5 of 7 members who weren’t there six months ago. And 26 years of experience between Lynn Rogers and Arnold will be gone. Who steps into board leadership roles will be worth watching.
▪ There were no surprises in City Council races, as incumbent James Clendenin and first-time candidate Cindy Claycomb were easy winners in Districts 3 and 6. Brandon Johnson won District 1 with 65 percent and will be the Council’s youngest member at age 31.
▪ Kansas’ move to fall elections in odd-numbered years didn’t help turnout much. Unofficial numbers in Sedgwick County showed 8.1 percent turnout. That’s better than the spring 2013 turnout (6.2 percent) but half of the spring 2015 turnout (16.3 percent).
▪ Candidates, please tell your supporters it’s time to pull up the yard signs. Your neighbors thank you.