These days even local elections reverberate with echoes of national controversies. That certainly was the case with yesterday's special district election where three seats on the Salem-Keizer school board were up for grabs.
Two slates of candidates faced off, one progressive and one conservative. The stakes were high, since in 2021 four progressive candidates beat their conservative opponents, putting control of the school board in their hands.
There are seven members of the school board, so 4-3 is a majority.
This year the three seats occupied by conservatives in 2021 were up for election, though only one was occupied by an incumbent, Satya Chandragiri, owing to some resignations. So while progressive control of the school board wasn't in doubt, the size of the progressive majority was.
As things stand the day after the May 16 election, there appears to be two winners and one too-close-to-call race.
Progressive Cynthia Richardson is leading conservative Casity Troutt by 1,051 votes. Conservative Krissy Hudson has a 4,205 vote lead over progressive Larry Scruggs. And conservative Satya Chandragiri is leading progressive Kelly Strawn by 446 votes.
So unless Troutt has an extremely unlikely comeback, soon the progressive majority on the school board will increase from 4-3 to 5-2. Sure, liberals like me would prefer it be 6-1 or 7-0. But picking up a seat formerly held by a conservative should make progressives smile.
Especially since Casity Troutt hoped to win that seat. Troutt was a far-right candidate who would have brought her extreme agenda to the school board, creating havoc wherever she could.
I urge you to read an excellent piece by Andrew Hickey on his Salem-Keizer Proletariat substack publication: "Progressives gain in Salem-Keizer School Board race." As I told Hickey in a comment on this post, whatever I was going to say about the election, you've said it better.
Hickey says this about Casity Troutt.
Bigotry and hate lost big. Casity Troutt is a vocal anti-transgender activist and has tried to get books on diversity banned from public schools. Her candidacy was borne from those efforts. And her supporters worked hard to smear and degrade the only black woman in the entire race. Her campaign (and ideology) was a gross expression of fear and hate that was soundly rejected by our community. That’s a great signal.
Troutt also led an unsuccessful effort to recall three progressive school board members, so her loss is especially sweet for me.
I hated the attack ad against Richardson backers of Troutt spewed forth on social media. So the way I see it from my progressive point of view, keeping Troutt off the school board was better than losing the Hudson-Scruggs race, plus the Chandragiri-Strawn race -- should that remain in conservative hands after all the votes are counted.
Pleasingly, the overall positive showing of the progressive candidates in the Salem-Keizer school district election reflected a broader trend. Here's some excerpts from an Oregonian story, "Oregon voters reject conservative school board candidates in Newberg, other districts."
Three incumbents on the Newberg school board lost their seats in Tuesday’s election, the end of an era in a district that’s attracted national attention since 2021, when a majority of board members banned staff from putting Black Lives Matter and pro-LGBTQ+ rights signs up in classrooms or hallways.
The five candidates who won seats on the board this week — three of them against incumbents and two of them for open seats — were all supported by a political action committee called Oregon CARES that says its mission is to elect “responsible and equitable” community leaders. That PAC’s largest single donor is the statewide teachers’ union, the Oregon Education Association.
...Overall, candidates who had strongly supported increased parental oversight over curriculum, particularly in social studies and health and sexuality, and who emphasized a “back-to-basics” approach on everything from academics to student discipline – lost their races in the Portland suburbs and exurbs Tuesday night, bucking a national trend that has seen candidates with conservative ideologies make meaningful inroads onto nonpartisan school boards.