She didn't make it through the primary, but free advertising - posted in error - might keep Cynthia M. Parr in the race for school board as a write-in candidate.
Parr was one of 22 candidates who ran in the primary. Four candidates are vying for a pair of seats in the November general election: Susan Holt of Sykesville, Thomas G. Hiltz of Woodbine, Stephen M. Nevin of Finksburg and Lisa Breslin of Westminster. Parr finished sixth in the March primary with 2,987 votes.
"The people who worked on her campaign during the primary think she would be an excellent choice as a write-in, as a second choice to Lisa Breslin," said Donna Cross of Finksburg, who worked on Parr's campaign. "They're both alike in that they both have integrity, honesty and are freethinkers. They would complement one another."
Rumors of Parr's write-in candidacy began circulating shortly after the primary, when motorists in South Carroll noticed a billboard advertising "Parr for school board." The sign, on Georgetown Boulevard near Route 26, was supposed to have been taken down in March.
"I had people telling me, 'Hey I saw your billboard,'" said Parr, a former spokeswoman for the county commissioners and the economic development department. "They were saying they were going to write me in. I was flattered."
Under state law, those who did not win the primary but want to be on the ballot in the general election must spend at least $51 to promote their candidacy, and are required to file in Annapolis as a write-in candidate by 5 p.m. Nov. 1.
"Only votes of candidates who file a certificate of candidacy will be counted and reported," said Ross Goldstein, with the state board of elections. "If a candidate does not file, he or she cannot win."
Even if Parr files as a write-in candidate, her odds of winning are slim.
"Write-in candidates have never been successful," said Gail Carter, deputy director of the board of elections for Carroll County. "It sounds good, but the candidates don't have the publicity to pull it off."
Parr's would be the first major write-in effort in the county in more than six years. Former State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman launched the most recent write-in campaign in 1994, after being rebuffed by Republicans in the primary. He was defeated by Jerry F. Barnes by 172 votes - a margin of less than 2 percent.
Too soon for a decision
Parr's supporters hope this year's presidential election will mean more voters at the polls and more votes for the former chairwoman of the school redistricting advisory panel.
Fewer than 40 percent of the county's 76,503 registered voters went to the polls in March. In presidential elections, voter turnout is typically close to 80 percent, Carter said.
Parr, a free-lance writer who has three children in the public school system, said it is too soon to predict whether she'll put her name on the ballot.
"If I felt in my heart that a majority of people support me, I would do it," Parr said. "I'm not doing any fund-raising right now. I'm waiting to see how things go."
The candidates who made it through the primary said that no matter what Parr decides, it won't affect their campaigns.
"If she wants to participate in the process, more power to her," said Hiltz. "I'm just going to work hard on my campaign and convince people I'm the best candidate."
Holt, who won the most votes in the primary, questioned whether Parr should put her name on the ballot.
"She was in the primary and she lost. Personally, if I hadn't done well in the primary, I wouldn't try to be part of the process now," said Holt. "To come back and put her name on the ballot, it just seems to say there's not faith in the process."
Nevin could not be reached for comment.
Board facing tough issues
During her campaign before the primary, Parr said she would like to restore credibility and focus to the school board after a year of turmoil.
A grand jury is investigating the school system and its handling of several construction projects and overall fiscal mismanagement. The school board must search for a superintendent after William H. Hyde's sudden decision to retire Sept. 1. School officials face a lawsuit over the construction of a wastewater treatment plant at a Union Bridge high school.
Any change in the composition of the school board could be pivotal in determining how the school system handles these issues.
Breslin said she is "very excited" about the prospect of serving with Parr on the board.
"She has a lot to offer: an incredible background with county government, dedication to improving education in Carroll County, and an understanding that it takes solid, long-term plans to get things done," said Breslin. "If the movement continues to be as strong as it is, she will be driven to Annapolis to file - and I will be a passenger in the car."