An oddity of politics is any contested campaign with little controversy seems to fall off the radar.
The Citrus County School Board District 5 race is one of those.
This is no reflection on the candidates, Joe Faherty and incumbent Linda Powers. Both are sincere and know their stuff.
It’s just that the Citrus County School Board isn’t registering much more than a blip this year.
And for that, we should be grateful.
The fact that we have a somewhat normal, quiet contest on the ballot between two qualified individuals who have the best interest of students and the education community speaks volumes.
It says Citrus County is serious about public education and not easily swayed by the distractions taking place in other places, where political pressure is pushing the discussion away from student success and into areas that are unrelated to education.
I’ve had Cattle Dog chats with both Faherty and Powers, and they’re eager to get past the election and continue their focus on kids. Safety, mental health, parental involvement — they’re on similar pages. I couldn’t find a significant difference in approach from either. Their hearts are in the right place.
— Powers is fortunate to have made it this far. Recall that in the primary, unless the overall winner gets 50%-plus-1, the top two vote-getters have a runoff in the general election.
Faherty won the primary with 31%, clearly not enough to avoid the runoff. Powers came in second at 28%, but in actual numbers, only 731 votes separated her from the third-place finisher, Deborah Daniels.
— Daniels had primary endorsements from both the Chronicle and Citrus County Education Association, the teachers union. Now that we’re post primary, the Chronicle endorsed Powers and the CCEA backed Faherty with a $1,000 campaign check.
— From a campaign contribution standpoint, totally different approaches.
Pending Friday’s report, Faherty has collected $22,825, of which $900 is his personal stake. Powers, meanwhile shows $21,190 in collections but more than half — $13,000 — are candidate loans.
Faherty has some known financial supporters: former school board members Kevin Cunningham and Lou Miele; former legislator and commissioner Jimmie T. Smith (Faherty’s wife, Dawn, was a legislative aide for Smith); Schlabach Security, owned by Commissioner Ruthie Davis Schlabach and her husband.
Another telling measure is the number of donors.
Powers doesn’t have big name backers, but she does have a bunch of small contributions. Of her 157 donors, about 120 were of the $20 variety.
Both are spending campaign money on traditional advertising, social media and mail pieces.
— So, what separates these two? In a nutshell, experience.
Powers was elected to the school board in 2004, the same year voters elected Sandra “Sam” Himmel as superintendent. In fact, that’s why Powers has four terms plus two years. Those first two were to complete Himmel’s school board term.
Faherty is a longtime Citrus County Sheriff’s school resource officer. He knows these schools but, of course, doesn’t have any experience in elected office.
The other day I had a nice chat with Himmel. I wanted her observations on both candidates and, being the political genius that runs in her family, she wouldn't say boo.
What she did hint was this may not be her last term, that she may run again in 2024. Although I’ve urged Sam to consider another run, I hadn’t really counted on her doing that.
Regardless of her plans, considering a possible change in superintendent in two years, we’d want five school board members totally focused on the Citrus County education playbook and not wandering into the superintendent’s politics.
So this appears to be one of those “change” elections, as in, is it time for a change? Powers’ 18 years means stability, but also the possibility of stagnation. Faherty’s enthusiasm for kids is clear, but can he grasp the complexities of overseeing all elements of public education?
School Board District 5 may not be the most exciting race on the ballot and we don’t have candidates who are accusing each other of this or that. That’s a good thing for Citrus County, and we should thank both Faherty and Powers for giving us a solid choice.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.