Howard County Board of Education candidate Larry Pretlow II announced the suspension of his campaign in a social media post last week.
Pretlow is running against Antonia Barkley Watts for the District 2 seat on the board. With the Nov. 3 election about five weeks away, and mail ballots being sent and filled out by voters, it is too late for Pretlow to officially drop out of the race and remove his name from the ballot.
Pretlow’s post on his candidacy’s Facebook page reads: “Mr. Pretlow’s campaign for Howard County Board of Education in District 2 is suspended.”
Pretlow couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.
In the June primary, Pretlow finished second in District 2 to move on to the general election against Watts. Pretlow received 22.6% of the vote to narrowly finish 172 votes ahead of James Cecil, who garnered 21.4% of the district’s voters. Watts, meanwhile, won a majority of the votes with 56%.
“I was surprised,” Watts said Tuesday. “There was no indication he was going to suspend his campaign. Because it was so abrupt, I just hope all is well with him and his family."
With Pretlow suspending his campaign, and with Watts’ large margin of victory in the primary, she is the favorite to win the District 2 seat in November. The winner in District 2, along with the winners in the other four districts, will make up the first Board of Education in Howard County to be voted in by residents in a district instead of the entire county.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Watts said. “I never want to count my chickens before they hatch. We are going to keep doing what we were going to do since he is still on the ballot.”
Voters in Howard County have the choice of voting by mail, dropping their vote-by-mail ballot in a drop box at nine locations, voting early at five spots or voting in person at 17 voting centers. The mail ballots require voters to fill out an application by Oct. 20. The early voting locations will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Oct. 26 to Nov. 2.
“It’s a race [that’s low on the ballot], so it’s already a little bit challenging to get voters interested in the school board races,” Watts said. “We are definitely going to continue our voter outreach, making sure people are registered and get them out to the polls.”
Pretlow is the second candidate this month to suspend his campaign. Tom Heffner in District 3 also dropped out of the race; similar to Pretlow,, his name will remain on the ballot since the deadline to remove it had passed. One difference, however, is that Heffner endorsed his opponent, Jolene Mosley, when he bowed out of the race.
Heffner posted in a Facebook group in early September that Mosley — who received 66% of the vote in the June primary — led a campaign that “resonated with our county voters.”
“It became clear after the primary, and I was probably slow in doing so, that she was the candidate in our district who resonated strongest with the community,” Heffner said in an interview in early September. “She’s smart, strong and capable. She’s going to do a great job. Rather than do what some other people would do and push through and try to win, why not support her since I think she’s going to do a good job?”
Heffner was the second person in District 3 to unofficially drop out but after the deadline to be removed from the ballot. In the June primary, Gian Alfeo, who withdrew from the race in May after sharing Islamaphobic posts on Facebook, said he would not compete for the seat in the general election even if he had finished in the top two. He didn’t, though, receiving only 7.7% of the vote.
Along with Watts and Pretlow in District 2 and Heffner and Mosley in District 3, the other races for the Howard County Board of Education are: incumbent Christina Delmont-Small and Matthew Molyett in District 1; incumbent Jen Mallo and Sezin Palmer in District 4; and Yun Lu and Cindy Vaillancourt in District 5.
Current Vice Chairperson Vicky Cutroneo and member Chao Wu will remain on the board, serving as the first two at-large members. In 2018, Cutroneo and Wu won the most votes, securing each a four-year term. In the 2022 election, the new at-large members will be elected by all county voters.
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Current Chairperson Mavis Ellis and member Sabina Taj chose not to run for reelection. Member Kirsten Coombs finished third in the District 4 primary and is not on the general election ballot.