Joanna Bache Tobin leads in the Anne Arundel Board of Education District 6 election while Corine Frank leads in District 3 following the release of initial mail-in ballots and in-person vote counts.
The historic primary took place largely via mail due to the coronavirus pandemic, but more than 42,000 residents across the state chose to vote in person. The result was long, socially distanced lines at a reduced number of polling centers. And a late night of processing results. The top two vote-getters in the primary will move onto the general election.
District 6 had the most candidates running for the top two spots. Bache Tobin had about 30% of the vote while India L. Ochs had about 23%. Erin Lorenz was third with 20% of the vote. The other candidates running for District 6 were Scott Shaffer, with 17%, and Bradley O’Neal with 10%.
For District 3, Ken Baughman, Corine Frank and Larry Rogers ran for the seat.Preliminary results Wednesday morning show Frank received the largest percentage in the number of votes by mail with 48%. Baughman was behind with nearly 29% and Rogers had 22%.
District 2 only had two candidates, Robert A. Silkworth and Raleigh Turnage Jr., and they both move on to the General Election.
“I am very grateful for the results, especially given most of the usual mechanisms for campaigning have been shut down over the past few months,” she said in an interview early Wednesday morning.
As school closures and the impact of COVID-19 has hit the school system, Bache Tobin said her platform has not changed but has become reinforced when addressing equity in the county.
“I’ve been concerned from get-go with the opportunity gap and whether we have equitable access to the resources. It has been revealed in the course of the shut down that we do not,” she said, citing issues like internet access and devices at home.
Ochs said she is still motivated to fight for students and for the Annapolis community.
“There is much work to be done as I connect with more fellow residents and get the votes needed to win in November, with the biggest unknown being how COVID-19 will impact both campaigning and the 2020-2021 school year, yet regardless of how we interact with each other in the coming months, my vision of equity for all hasn’t changed,” Ochs said in an email statement.
Frank said the preliminary results had excited her and was cause for celebration with her family.
“The best part of the day was telling my kids. They were so excited,” Frank said. She recalled how hard her children worked and how they all hugged after hearing she was leading in the race so far.
Though Frank said she still holds true to her campaign on issues like recess and nutrition, she pointed out that parents are concerned about reopening.
“You have to be flexible and understand it is something people are more worried about,” she said. “We have to figure out how and when we will get back to school.”
In total 10 candidates were in the running for the school board. The primaries marked a historic election for another reason beyond the health guidelines put into place to combat COVID-19. The school board is transitioning from governor-appointed to a fully elected body.
While voters were out to vote in person or drop off ballots at voting centers in the county Tuesday, Tobin and Ochs greeted voters in Annapolis. They gave last-minute pitches to voters trekking toward the entrance.
“We need to do everything we can to deliver the best possible education to our students and make sure everything is equally accessible,” Tobin said she told voters.
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“Equity for all,” Ochs said. She added that she supported more resources for mental health and special education.
Ochs’ message resonated with Clarice Graves, 49, a Democrat. She said she has a family member in special education. Patricia Holliday, 62, a Democrat from Bay Ridge, was also impressed with Ochs, saying she believed Ochs stood for equality.
Holliday raised a concern that resonated with some other voters, too. She was worried about how COVID-19 had exposed education gaps, like those students that couldn’t connect to online learning because they didn’t have internet or computers. Holliday said she wanted all minority children to “get a fair shake.”
Republican Tara Stout, 56, said she opted for Bradley O’Neal because he was fresh out of the school system. “I think recent graduates have a good real-life perspective as to what’s happening in the schools.”
Taylor, the retired lawyer, said she thought the school system needed someone with a strong financial background and that’s why she chose Scott Shaffer. “The board of education needs that because we’ve got tough times ahead.”
Anne Arundel BOE
Results of Anne Arundel Board of Education primary