Backlash against incumbents on the Moore County Board of Education put a slate of newcomers comfortably ahead in the voting in races for three open seats in Tuesday’s election.
According to incomplete and unofficial returns Tuesday night, Robert Levy won the District 2 seat now held by Helena Wallin-Miller. David Hensley finished ahead of Betty Wells Brown for the District 4 seat on the school board, and Philip Holmes won the District 5 seat John Weaver was appointed to last year.
Stacey Caldwell, the lone incumbent re-elected to the school board, won the District 1 seat with 81 percent of the vote over Brandon Coleman.
The Board of Elections can still accept and count ballots until Nov. 12 if they are postmarked by 5 p.m. Nov. 3. But given the current margins the challengers hold, those additional results are not expected to affect the final outcomes.
“I believe a lot of people were looking at this race. It was probably the biggest local race in the county. A lot of people were paying attention to it and a lot of people were doing their research,” Holmes said as results rolled in on Tuesday night.
“I think it was a hard race, it was a lot of hard work and I enjoyed it. I know both sides put in a lot of effort, but bottom line I’ve got to thank the people of Moore County that did vote for me. Even the ones that didn’t, hopefully I’ll earn their trust and their respect in the years to come. I’m very excited about it.”
Challengers’ campaigns focused on last year’s countywide redistricting process, Moore County Schools’ state performance ratings and how the district has handled reopening during the coronavirus pandemic.
The District 2 and District 5 candidates went through a primary this past March to narrow the field down to two candidates for each open seat. Both Wallin-Miller and Weaver narrowly led their respective primary races, but their challengers captured more votes in the general election.
With all 26 Moore County precincts reporting on Tuesday night, Levy had 53.2 percent of the vote and a 3,300-vote lead over Wallin-MIller.
“I appreciate all the voters of Moore County for having voted for myself as well as the other coservative candidates. We’re going to endeavor to make these schools the best schools in North Carolina,” Levy said Tuesday night.
Levy said that throughout the campaign he encountered voters whose school board choices were motivated by concerns surrounding the school district’s spending and decision to delay a fuller reopening of elementary schools after being authorized to reopen them by the state.
“This has been a very, very difficult campaign. There’s been a lot of name-calling and we’re going to work together, perhaps in a different direction but we’re going to work together to create the best schools in North Carolina. … I appreciate not just the people who voted for me, but also the people who worked hard for my opponent because everyone’s just trying to make the schools better and I understand that. That will not go unnoticed.”
Wallin-Miller chaired the board for two years of her five-year tenure, including for two years while the schools passed a $103 million general obligation bond to build new elementary schools in Aberdeen, Southern Pines and Pinehurst and then worked to shift school attendance lines around the county to balance enrollment across elementary and middle school campuses.
She said that she’s also proud of improvement in the district’s four-year high school graduation rate, expansion of career and technical education certifications available to high school students, and better results on teacher satisfaction surveys.
“While I’m disappointed that Moore County voters did not acknowledge these successes, I trust the board will continue to work to enhance student achievement, advocate for more funds from the North Carolina legislature, and continue our progress on modernizing our facilities,” said Wallin-Miller. “I expect that the new members will put political rhetoric aside and work closely with the current board on these initiatives and put the success of all students and staff at the forefront of their minds.
“I want to thank all the parents, teachers and staff who have entrusted me for the past few years with the significant honor of serving on your school board. I am indebted to your passion and I will continue to serve in your corner as a concerned citizen and proud parent.”
Hensley and Holmes had even more comfortable leads in their races after polls closed Tuesday. Hensley won the District 4 seat by nearly 5,000 votes and 54.9 percent of the vote to Brown’s 44.7 percent. Holmes had 54.8 percent of the vote to Weaver’s 44.8 with 4,600 votes between them.
“I want to thank all the people that supported all of us. We have worked very hard to support Moore County Schools and our teachers and our students. I wish the new board well in their new endeavors. I’m disappointed, but I understand that apparently people wanted change,” said Brown.
“We’ve worked very hard to turn Moore County Schools into the best schools that they could be and we hope that they continue to do so.”
The Moore County Board of Elections is currently scheduled to review and approve final election results Friday, Nov. 13.