- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2000

D.C. voters gave political newcomer Peggy Cooper Cafritz the lead in yesterday's election to determine who runs the newly configured school board, while incumbent school board members led challengers in one District and most suburban school board races.

Miss Cafritz, 53, co-founder of Duke Ellington High School for the Arts, led the early returns with 54 percent of the vote, topping Robert G. Childs, who drew 37 percent, and Lawrence A. "Larry" Gray, who received 9 percent, with 61 of 140 precincts reporting.

The board president, elected at-large, will oversee a nine-member board which will have true policymaking power for the first time since 1996 if the D.C. financial control board returns the reins in January as promised.

The previous board had 11 members until D.C. voters narrowly approved the new structure in June.

The restructured board combined eight city wards into four newly drawn districts and provided for one elected board member from each to work with four board members appointed by the mayor. The board now also has a publicly elected president, rather than one elected by fellow board members a change that backers hope will minimize bickering and internal politics.

With incumbents facing each other in some races, District voters also had a large number and great variety of candidates to choose from four school board slots.

With no incumbents running in the racially diverse District 1, voters gave Julie Mikuta, 31, the lead over seven relatively unknown contenders with 49 percent of the vote with 12 of 33 precincts reporting. Trailing in second place with 11 percent of the vote is former school board member Ann C. Wilcox, 45, followed by Thomas E. Smith, 53; Linda E. Softli, 55; Harvey C. Jones, 55; Lenwood "Lenny" Johnson, 40; and Malcolm Lovell, 79. Glenn J. Melcher, 40, dropped out of the race after the deadline for removal from the ballot.

In District 2, incumbent Dwight E. Singleton, 38, led Hugh Allen, 57, 30 percent to 27 percent with 16 of 37 precincts reporting. Trailing them were Martin Levine, 53, Ivory Roberts, 60, Tommy Duren, 33, and John Foy Lord, 46.

Incumbent Benjamin Bonham, 47, was ahead of seven other candidates including two incumbents in District 3 with 22 percent. Tommy Wells, 43, came in close behind with 21 percent followed by incumbents Angie King Corley, 76, and Gail Dixon, 53, Sunday Abraham, 58, Lois Tett, 54, William B. Boston, 30, and Kathy Henderson, 38, with 18 of 35 precincts reporting.

In District 4, voters gave incumbent William Lockridge, 52, the edge over Arthur L. Wharton III, 43, Cardell Shelton, 70, with 66 percent with 15 of 35 precincts reporting.

It is still not clear how power will be shared between elected board members and those appointed by Mayor Anthony A. Williams. Mr. Williams intends to announce his nominations for the four appointed school board members next week in order to have enough time for public hearings and council confirmation, according to Gregory McCarthy, the mayor's director of policy. All board members will be sworn on Jan. 2 for four-year terms. The terms of the president, two appointed members and those elected in Districts 3 and 4 will expire in 2002 to allow for staggered terms to ensure stability on the board.

Elsewhere, in an uncharacteristically bitter contest for school board seats, District 2 voters in Montgomery County voters gave challenger Walter Lange, 53, a 53 percent to 46 percent victory over incumbent Mona M. Signer, with all227 precincts reporting. By doing so, District 2 voters appear to have heeded outspoken county and state officials who pushed for the incumbent's defeat. Mr. Lange is a former Montgomery County Council of PTAs president and an engineer with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

For the past few months, some of 51-year-old Ms. Signer's colleagues and other county and state politicians have criticized her for causing discord on the board.

Still, county voters gave Ms. Signer's ally, at-large candidate Sharon W. Cox, 47, of Germantown, a 54 percent to 46 percent lead with all 227 precincts reporting against education policy analyst Charles Haughey, 71, in the race for Beatrice Gordon's vacated seat. Mrs. Cox is a two-term president of the county PTA.

In the only other school board race in Montgomery County, District 4 candidate Kermit Burnett, 47, of Silver Spring had nothing to worry about. The systems analyst was appointed in December 1998 to fill a vacated seat and ran unopposed yesterday after his opponent, William Tell, withdrew.

Two years ago, Mr. Burnett ran for an at-large school board seat, placing eighth after self-fashioned anarchist Bill White. Mr. White was a write-in candidate in yesterday's election.

Across the Potomac River in Arlington, school board Chairwoman E.T. "Libby" Garvey and board member Frank K. Wilson ran unopposed for re-election.

Even though Prince George's County school board has had a rough year the release of a damaging expense audit that has led to calls for board takeover collective board troubles didn't seem to adversely affected incumbent board members on Election Day.

In the most controversial race, one many county residents bemoaned as offering poor choices, District 9 voters handed embattled board member Marilynn Bland, 39, a former army nurse a lead over three candidates with troubles of their own. Early returns showed Mrs. Bland leading the closest contender, Minerva Sanders, 11,409 votes to 7,540 with 17 out of 25 precincts reporting, or 68 percent of the votes counted.

Mrs. Bland came under fire for misusing her school board expense account, which led to an audit of the board and the release of other school officials' expense accounts. Mrs. Sanders, 50, ran into trouble this summer after the state revoked the charter of her organization, the Prince George's County Council of PTAs.

Two write-in candidates for the Prince George's board did little to spark enthusiasm at the polls, voters said. Charles McClam, 43, claimed to belong to a PTA whose leaders said they had never heard of him. Kim Carrington, 35, a vice president of the county PTA, helped to orchestrate revocation of its charter and had been fired by her local PTA at Clinton Grove Elementary.

"What a choice," said parent and education activist Donna Beck, who said she was refusing to vote for any of the four candidates in the District 9 race.

Elsewhere in the county, incumbent candidates faced relatively unknown challengers as Prince George's voters chose candidates from their district. In District 1 board member, elementary school teacher Angela Como, 56, led against Catholic University student Justin W. Chappell, 22, for the board seat 13,211 to 5,959 with 20 of 21 precincts reporting, or 95 percent of the votes counted. District 3 board member Doyle L. Niemann, 53, and District 4 board member Catherine A. Smith, 47, ran unopposed.

Three-term District 6 board member Kenneth E. Johnson, 46, a manager at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, led with 10,808 to 8,279 against Denise Trotter Williams, 44, a social worker and newcomer to school politics with 20 of 27 precincts reporting, or 74 percent of the votes counted. And District 7 board member Felicia Lasley, 31, ran in her first election for the board seat against Tom Lee, 54, a realtor, leading 5,746 to 1,497 with nine of 18 precincts reporting, or 50 percent of the vote.

Miss Lasley, a lawyer with the U.S. Department of Justice, was appointed in February to fill the seat vacated by former board chairman, Alvin Thornton.

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