Few surprises in Howard BOE race

The two incumbents, candidates endorsed by the Howard County Education Association and a well known former Howard County Board of Education member have advanced in Tuesday's Board of Education primary election.

With early voting tallies posted at 8:20 p.m., incumbents Sandra French and Cindy Vaillancourt were leading the way.

Through early voting the top eight vote-getters were French, Vaillancourt, Bess Altwerger, Dan Furman, Zaneb Beams, Christine O'Connor, Allen Dyer and Olga Butler. In Howard County, 9,248, or 4.69 percent of the 197,348 registered voters, voters participated in early voting.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting as of 12:26 a.m., Mike Smith had jumped above Butler for the eighth and final spot. With absentee and provisional ballots yet to be counted, Smith held a 322 vote lead on Leslie Kornreich for eighth, 6,528 to 6,206.

The general election —when voters will choose four candidates to fill open seats on the seven-member board — is Nov. 4.

The Howard County Education Association, the county teachers union, had recommended Altwerger, Beams, Furman and Vaillancourt to its more than 5,500 members as it continues its advocacy for a multiyear contract with the school system.

On Friday, HCEA declared an impasse in ongoing negotiations, a move that will bring the Maryland Public Schools Labor Relations Board into the fold.

Vaillancourt said it was "humbling and gratifying" to be the top vote-getter as results began to trickle in Tuesday, especially months after her colleagues passed a resolution that accused her of twice breaching the confidentiality of closed sessions within the past year.

At the time, Vaillancourt called it "dirty politics" 45 days before the primary, but on Tuesday she said that the resolution may have helped her campaign.

"I should probably send them [board members] a thank you note," Vaillancourt said. "People all seem to have seen through it."

Altwerger, who received the third most votes in her first run for the board, said she was "very excited" about the results, but was thrilled that all HCEA endorsed candidates will be advancing.

"For me this is not an individual race," she said. "This is a team effort."

Altwerger credited the county teachers as the reason she will be advancing, before adding that she believes the results show that county teachers are not satisfied with the current board.

"I don't think teachers believe they're being heard," she said.

Dyer, making his third run for the board, served on the board from 2008 through 2012, but was impeached in 2011. In the 2012 primary, Dyer finished eighth out of 15 candidates, failing to advance to the general election.

Although totals are not yet official, Dyer said it was a "point of pride" to advance in a primary where unaffiliated voters could only vote in school board races.

"This community in Howard County is politically active and particularly concerned with the state of our public schools," he said.

Dyer believed the board's recent actions toward Vaillancourt helped his campaign as well.

"The public saw through the sham of what the board majority was doing this time," he said.

Candidates who spent much of the day making last minute pitches to voters at polls around the county called the turnout a "slow trickle."

"Even though it's a light turnout, a higher percentage of that turnout is teachers, parents and their families," said Altwerger while greeting voters at Clarksville Middle School.

You can view the full results here.

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