The Fairfax County School Board is technically a non-partisan body and was designed that way in hopes of helping members set aside politics to ensure our students receive the best education possible. As the Washington Post editorial board wrote while announcing their school board endorsements, however, “that’s a fiction this year” as the “vitriolic” and “poisonous tone” resulting from the Republicans taking “a page from President Trump’s playbook of trafficking in fear, misinformation and demonization” has destroyed any chance of have a civil debate.
With that in mind, they ended up endorsing all three Democrats running for the school board’s three at large seats. They also endorsed Megan McLaughlin for the Braddock District seat, Elaine Tholen for Dranesville, Melanie Meren in Hunter Mill, Ricardy Anderson in Mason, and Karen Corbett Sanders in Mt. Vernon. While I have been following these races as every race on the school board is absolutely critical, here are the endorsements in the districts where I’ve been paying especially close attention.
In the Providence district, the Post endorsed Karl Frisch. Given that the announcements were made right before Game 4 of the World Series and Karl’s a big baseball fan, he apparently found out about the endorsement when another local candidate texted him about it while he was at Nationals Park waiting for the game to start. While highlighting why voters should support his candidacy, the Post mentioned how he “promises to use his skills as public policy advocate and communicator to address overcrowded classes and access to advanced academic programs.”
While Karl has been running on commonsense ideas, his opponent has claimed we’re wasting money on mental health and teacher training, says the LGBT community is “loudest special interest group” and we shouldn’t be focused on stopping bullying and discrimination against them, and claimed those concerned about diversity and ending bullying simply have “social emotional weakness” and are “out to victimize our children.”
When it comes to Sully, which is the magisterial district I live in, the Post endorsed “challenger Stella Pekarsky, a former teacher and parent of six public school students, would provide more energetic representation than incumbent Thomas Wilson.” Since several of the Republicans running for school board have been saying there needs to be more parents on the school board, it’s probably hard for them to argue that Stella doesn’t meet those qualifications (plus, she’s a teacher who’s bringing forth some solid ideas).
While it doesn’t specifically say this, the endorsement also gets to the heart of one of the major criticisms many people have of Wilson. He simply has a horrible attendance record and when he does bother to show up, he frequently arrives late, leaves early, and abstains on votes that might have required even a small amount of research. Despite his struggles to attend school board meetings, however, Wilson did find the time to attend an event outside of his district to express support for Elizabeth Schultz as she hosted a discussion with senior staffers from a designated hate group.
The endorsement in the Springfield district is where I partially disagree with the Post’s conclusions. While I agree that “either candidate challenging the strident and ineffective incumbent Elizabeth Schultz would be an improvement,” I disagree that Kyle McDaniel would be the better choice and strongly support Laura Jane Cohen for the seat.
That being said, there has been some interesting reactions to the endorsement online. Many people believe the Post was looking for a non-Democrat to endorse and McDaniel was essentially the only person who fit the bill and was even remotely qualified to be on the school board. With his history of working with Pat Herrity and leaving the Republican Party because it simply became too extreme, he makes for an interesting conservative to endorse and is still an upgrade from Elizabeth Schultz.
Other folks have been talking about how McDaniels might end up essentially splitting the vote of people who are feed up with the extremism that Schultz is promoting on the board. In typical “Not Larry Sabato” fashion that includes a little bit of sarcasm, for instance, Ben Tribbett took to twitter to express his concern.
“Kyle McDaniel was on track to get ONE vote (not sure he even had his wife on board) before tonight for his clown candidacy,” Ben tweeted. “Now there is real danger he could split the vote and allow Elizabeth Schultz to win again. If he is what he claims, he should immediately withdraw.”
It’s also worth noting that while the Post did call out the “vitriolic” and “poisonous tone” that’s “been set by the Republican-backed candidates” in the beginning of the article, Elizabeth Schultz was the only candidate they specifically said something negative about. As I’ve been laying out in post, after post, after post here, Schultz does take things to the extreme fairly often and has been caught trying to spread misinformation during forums in desperate attempts to make her opponents look bad. It’s therefore somewhat understandable how they took the anybody’s better than Schultz approach.
Besides picking McDaniel over Laura Jane Cohen, the Washington Post hit it spot on with the endorsements. Perhaps more important than who the supported, however, was their decision to call out the Republicans for the ugliness they’ve brought to the campaign. The rhetoric and misinformation they’ve been using has no place in our political discourse, but that’s especially the case when it comes to the school board.