Democratic school board nominees look ahead to November
by Joe Medley
Mar 14, 2012 | 2699 views |  0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Democrats have a hard time breaking through in Republican-leaning areas like Calhoun County, and the field of Republicans running for the Calhoun County Board of Education includes some with controversy in their backgrounds.

But Democrats who hope to win seats on the seven-member school board in the fall say they plan to run positive campaigns.

“It’s really going to be based on our focus on the students and on the needs of Calhoun County,” Sharon Gaines said. “I think that the people are going to vote for individual people and set aside the parties.”

Gaines, Dennis Christopher and Paul Ford will be the three Democrats on the ballot in the general election in November. They will complete with the seven top vote-getters in Tuesday’s Republican primary.

As of press time Tuesday night, the top GOP finishers, in order, were incumbent Mike Almaroad, Debbie Hess, Jeff Winn, incumbent Phil Murphy, Tobi Burt, incumbent David Gilmore and incumbent Dale Harbin. That’s with 44 of 45 boxes counted.

The top seven finishers in both parties qualify for the general election ballot. Since only three Democrats are running, they automatically make the fall ballot.

The GOP field looks to include Murphy, who is running on a platform of Christianity, touting his role in ensuring Bible-based courses are available to public school students. He has also clarified recent comments regarding homosexuality and integration.

In 2001, Burt pleaded guilty to four counts of possession of a controlled substance and to six counts of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, according to court documents.

Sheila Gilbert, chair of the Calhoun County Democratic Party, said she’d like to see discussion about the separation of church and state discussed in the general election.

“I would hope they (Democratic candidates) would look at that and say we’re going to have to have some balance here,” she said. “We’re going to have to do the church-state-separation thing. It’s getting to be a little bit overboard.”

But Democratic candidates reached by The Star on Tuesday night said they want to keep the campaign positive.

“Definitely, keep the focus on the job,” Gaines said.

Ford echoed those sentiments.

“I don’t want to go negative at all,” he said. “Their problems in the past are in the past.”

Attempts to reach Christopher Tuesday night were unsuccessful.

Gaines, who has 33 and a half years in education as a teacher and administrator, said she wants to keep the focus on students.

“We have to make sure that we bring focus to the successes and the qualifications of our students because education has changed,” she said.

Ford said he wants to focus on discipline and fiscal issues.

“I really think discipline and doing better with the budget we have,” he said. “I mean, everybody wants more funding, but we’re not going to get more funding right now.

“If we could just deal with the money we have and use it better.”

Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.

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Democratic school board nominees look ahead to November by Joe Medley

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