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Moffitt files bill to make School Board elections partisan

A bill to switch Henderson County School Board elections from nonpartisan to partisan has received strong support from voters in Henderson County, state Sen. Tim Moffitt said last week.

“I would say (calls and emails run) probably 20-to-1 in favor of the bill and most of the folks that are objecting to the bill are not from Henderson County,” he said. “They’ve relocated to Henderson County from somewhere else.”

Moffitt filed the bill within days of receiving a resolution from the Henderson County Board of Commissioners that sought the change. He called the legislation a “straightforward” bill that will make the general election ballot easier to navigate. In 2024, four candidates are up for re-election, including Republicans Kathy Revis and Robert Brooks, Democrat Stacy Caskey and Chair Blair Craven, who is registered unaffiliated.

“Once we do that, it allows a primary, which means that we won’t have quite as many people in November in the general election as we’ve been faced with because a lot of that’ll be sorted out through the primary process,” Moffitt said. A primary will be triggered whenever more candidates from a party file for election than there are open seats. In order to appear on the general election ballot in November, unaffiliated candidates must collect signatures totaling 4 percent of the total registered voters, or 3,470 people.

“A lot of people wanted to know, can unaffiliated candidates still run for School Board? The answer is yes,” Moffitt said. “A lot of folks were very interested in whether or not there was a primary to help cut down the number of candidates that people are trying to choose from in November and the answer to that is yes.”

If the bill passes, the change is effective for the 2024 election. Filing for the seats is this coming December.

In a text message response to the Lightning’s question about whether he plans to run for re-election, Craven said “I’m not sure yet.” A Republican at the time, Craven won election to the School Board in 2016 and won re-election in 2020. He is currently registered as unaffiliated.

Henderson County would join 43 other school districts governed by a school board elected on a partisan base, and the number may grow by more than just one county this year.

“I know there’s several other bills that are either in the process of being filed,” Moffitt said, “so I anticipate eight or 10 counties will be added this biennium from the chatter I’m picking up in the building.”

Other legislators’ proposals to make their county school board elections partisan could be rolled into one bill. As long as the number of school boards in a bill is fewer than 15, the measured counts as a local bill not subject to a veto from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

Although he’s spoken with newly elected Rep. Jennifer Balkcom, Moffitt said he’s not asking her to file a companion bill in the House.

“She doesn’t need to,” he said. “I told her that I would prefer to be the point of focus on this since she’s new to politics. I’ll send it to the House from the Senate and they’ll close it out in the House. I’ll ask her to do so and I’m sure she will. She is supportive of the bill.”