Leslie Harris, the only incumbent in this year’s Seattle School Board races, held a comfortable lead in her West Seattle district Tuesday night.
Harris, who is serving her first term in District 6, has been School Board president since 2017. A litigation paralegal, Harris is known for her blunt feedback — especially around the state’s school-funding overhaul, which she often calls “fake news.” She delivered the tie-breaking vote on the approval of the district’s controversial new science curriculum.
So far, Molly E. Mitchell, a mother and director of student support programs at Seattle Central College, comes the closest to Harris’ 53% with 34% of the vote.
The two top vote earners in each district advance to the Nov. 5 general election. King County officials estimated that Tuesday night’s results would reflect about half of the total turnout.
School Board members control a budget of $1 billion and govern policy for the state’s largest school district. The positions usually attract longtime school volunteers and parents looking to right wrongs they’ve observed in the system.
There are 12 candidates vying for four seats, including Harris’ spot. In District 1, Eric Blumhagen, a father and naval architect, nabbed nearly 40% and Liza Rankin 37%. Rankin is an education advocate, school volunteer and mother of two. The two were well ahead of the rest of the field.
In District 3, Chandra Hampson led the way with 55% of the votes counted Tuesday. Hampson,who works as a community and economic development consultant, was the first Native American president of the citywide parent-teacher association, Seattle Council PTSA. For the second spot in the District 3 general election, Rebeca Muniz had 24% Tuesday to Benjamin Leis’ 20%.
“We have to grow our children and not treat them like problems that need to be solved, and that takes a strong social justice and educational justice perspective,” said Hampson, speaking over the sounds of a bar in Wedgwood where she celebrated. “I’ve been really focused on that.”
Lisa Rivera Smith, the only candidate running for District 2, was not listed on the ballot and will automatically advance to the general election.
Since any Seattle resident can cast a vote for any seat in the general election, the eventual winners of the primary will have to shift their campaign’s focus beyond just their neighborhoods.
Outside the election cycle, the School Board will change further after its members choose a replacement for Betty Patu, who left her South Seattle seat in July — after the county’s cutoff for triggering an election for that seat. Twelve candidates have entered their names for consideration, and the board will make a decision in September.
District 5 board representative Zachary DeWolf appeared to be trailing other challengers for Kshama Sawant’s District 3 seat on the Seattle City Council. He announced his council campaign less than halfway into his first School Board term. He told The Seattle Times that he would finish his term on the board, which runs through 2021.
Compared to City Council campaigns, where many candidates raise more than $50,000, School Board elections are a modest affair. Hampson leads in campaign contributions, raising over $19,000 by early Tuesday afternoon.