The Howard County Board of Education General Election returns revealed some interesting outcomes.
Based on the still unofficial results:
1. Cindy Vaillancourt obtained the highest number of votes of the eight candidates on the ballot in 57 of the 118 Election Day precincts. She finished second in another 39 precincts…and in the top four in 117 (all but one of the smaller ones). She performed well countywide and crushed in Board of Elections Voting District 6 (southeast HoCo: Laurel, Columbia, Jessup, a bit of Ellicott City and Fulton) where she won 27 of the 35 precincts.
Bottom line: This election served as a vote of confidence in the oft-embattled Vaillancourt. Even with lower turnout, there is no other way to read this outcome. The other Board Members need to take note, and I am assuming they have already.
2. Sandie French garnered a plurality of the vote in 43 precincts and placed second in another 30. She also banked the greatest number of early votes (9,721 compared to 9,561 for Vaillancourt). She fared best in Board of Elections Voting District 2 (Ellicott City) where she won 15 of 26 precincts and also ran well in Board of Elections Voting Districts 3 (primarily West Friendship, Marriottsville, and a slice of western Ellicott City) and 4 (western Howard County) where she won five of six and four of six precincts respectively.
Bottom line: French capitalized on the strong name identification she has built up over her years of service, a good organization and solid forum performances. As I noted earlier, incumbents are tough to defeat and this race was no exception.
3. Bess Altwerger won four precincts and finished second in 30. She was a fine candidate and a prime example that the Howard County Education Association’s backing is important in BoE general elections. She banked 8,274 early votes, which helped propel her to a third-place finish overall.
4. Christine O’Connor ran away with Voting District 1 (Elkridge, the eastern part of Ellicott City) where she placed first in 13 of the 21 precincts and second in four others. Overall, she won 18 districts and obtained a second place showing in another 16. Her strength was concentrated in eastern HoCo but she performed well enough countywide to place in the top four, approximately 200 votes behind Altwerger. Her 7,426 early votes were 650 more than Dan Furman’s tally.
5. 51.95% of the votes cast for Board of Education candidates were cast for candidates supported by the HCEA. They backed four candidates, two of whom were elected, with the others finishing with respectable fifth and sixth place showings. It would have been extremely difficult for the full slate to have been successful, given French’s presence on the ballot. The HCEA would have helped elect a third but O’Connor (an educator) ran a smart campaign and took the fourth position.
Shifting away from numbers for a moment, it is my hope that the two new Members will help usher in a new Era of Good Feelings on the Board of Education. No one is asking for hand-holding and exchanges of “You are my BFF” texts but the corrosive environment has not been healthy for the Board, for the Howard County Public School System, or the County as a whole. Now is the time to begin a new dynamic, one that is productive but also conciliatory, respectful and civil.
Stay tuned, as more will follow.