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One Hall school board race squarely decided; another may barely squeeze into a runoff

POSTED: May 21, 2014 1:47 a.m.

Votes are so close in the race for Hall County Board of Education Post 2 that it may not be decided until Friday.

Incumbent Brian Sloan, 55, could face either of his opponents in a runoff. Sloan had 50 percent of the vote, or 5,474 votes — not quite enough to win the election outright. But provisional ballots haven’t been counted yet.

And Pettitt has three votes more than the second challenger, Traci Lawson McBride — 2,738 to 2,735.

Hall County Elections Director Charlotte Sosebee said she’d have to count provisional ballots before determining whether a runoff will be held and with whom. She wasn’t sure Tuesday how many of those ballots she had, since they sat still unpacked at the elections office.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Sloan said. “The numbers are just so close.”

Sloan was unsure Tuesday evening if he would ask for a recount; he said he’d likely wait to see what the votes look like once the provisional ballots are counted, which Sosebee said should happen by Friday.

“I was pleased to be 25 points ahead of both of my opponents, but that’s not good enough to win,” Sloan said. “I believe I ultimately will be re-elected, but I certainly was hoping to get it done tonight.”

Pettitt was ready for a runoff, but also expressed astonishment over the closeness of the numbers.

“Quite honestly, I’m just delighted to be given a chance to serve the people of Hall County,” he said. “I’m happy to be a part of the political process.”

McBride was undecided Tuesday evening about whether she would ask for a recount.

“I guess what I need to do is take a look at it and evaluate the situation, and see how it looks in the morning,” she said, adding she feels in an election this close everyone “would welcome” a recount to make sure the correct numbers are reported.

It’s the closest local race in some time, Sosebee said.

In the at-large school board race, incumbent Bill Thompson, 63, was easily re-elected.

Thompson had 63.2 percent of the vote, or 6,775 votes. Opponent Paul Godfrey had 3,950 votes.

Thompson congratulated his opponent on a race well fought.

“Paul Godfrey is a good man,” he said. “I hope (the school board) can continue the upward trend with our money situation and be able to continue the payback, so to speak, of what we’ve taken away over the past six years and continue to provide the best education possible for everyone.”

Thompson was on the phone Tuesday evening with his daughter, who was also his campaign manager, thanking her for a job well done.

“I’m just so proud to be working with those men and with (Superintendent) Will Schofield,” he said. “They’re great people who have a great heart for what they’re doing, and they believe in it and work hard.”

Godfrey did not respond to messages Tuesday evening.

Opposition to Common Core standards united all candidates in both races, while those challenging the incumbents brought up accusations of a lack of transparency.

The set of standards were developed in 2009 through the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Georgia adopted the English/language arts and mathematics standards in 2010.

The race for the Post 2 position was contentious at times, with both Pettitt and McBride accusing Board of Education members of not being transparent.

Pettitt ran on that issue and a position of government frugality, while McBride initially got in the race because of her opposition to the Common Core standards.

The three candidates agreed on their dislike of Common Core, but Sloan broke away from his opponents by saying board members are transparent and are responsible with tax dollars when developing a budget.

In the at-large election, Godfrey also brought up board transparency as a concern, while Thompson agreed with fellow board member Sloan that board members are open with how they vote and answer community questions.

Godfrey also said the school system is in need of a clear strategic plan, using that plan to develop a prioritized budget.



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