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Sunday, April 15, 2012

State School Board Candidates - The Unique Process to Arriving on the Ballot

This weekend, many people participated in the party convention system.  Delegates, elected by their neighbors at local caucus meetings, attended county conventions to select which person from their party will appear on the November ballot.  If a candidate did not receive at least 60% of the vote, than the two top vote-getters will appear on the party's primary ballot in June.  If a candidate does receive 60% of the delegate vote, than the candidate does not have to participate in a primary, and instead will simply be running against opposing party candidates on the November ballot.   This is a process that most are familiar with, but it is not at all like the process by which State School Board candidates are elected.

During the spring, candidates for State School Board file to represent their district.  This year there are a lot of candidates, FIFTY-NINE to be exact.  After the candidate filing date closes, the candidates are interviewed by the State Board of Education Nominating and Recruiting Committee.  This committee, appointed by the Governor, is made up of twelve individuals each representing a specific group outlined in the law.  This year the committee consists of:

Letitia Teneau-Sowards, Representing Teachers
Virginia Sanchez, Representing Parents
Jason Perry, Representing Higher Education
Terry Bagley, Representing Information Technology
Joey Gilbert, Representing Construction
Chris Bleak, Representing Charter Schools
Dennis Iverson, Representing Agriculture
Ronald Wolff, Representing School Administrators
JoDee Sundburg, Representing Local School Boards
Christina Oliver, Representing Public Utilities & Transportation
Lerron Little, Representing Finance, Insurance and Real Estate
Thomas Bingham, Representing Manufacturing & Mining

Link to Governor's Committees

The committee will be interviewing candidates for each open seat on Monday and Tuesday of this week at the State Office of Education.  The interview schedule can be found here.  After the candidates are interviewed by the committee, a vote will be taken on which names will be forwarded on to the Governor.  The committee must select at least three candidates, but can select more than three.  After the Governor receives the names, he chooses two of the candidates to appear on the ballot in November.

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding this process.  In years past some popular incumbents have not made it on the ballot.  There has also been charges of block voting by the business interests on the committee, who hold a 7-5 majority.  Two years ago the Governor was sued after the meeting was closed and votes were taken in secret.  It is a little discouraging to see a committee made up of Capitol Hill lobbyists weeding out candidates.  Look at the list of the committee one more time:

Letitia Teneau-Sowards, Who I can't find anything about is representing teachers???
Virginia Sanchez, Director of the Family Center with office space at the Granite Education Center (source).
Jason Perry, Vice President of Government Relations at the University of Utah, former Gov. Herbert staffer
Terry Bagley, National Director of Self Storage Association, President & CEO of Centershift, Inc., Co-Chair of Utah Technology Council.  In 2010, the Utah Tech PAC which is associated with the Utah Technology Council spent $17,000 on political contributions (source). Terry Bagley is also married to Robyn Bagley, the Board Chair of Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) (source), the PCE PAC spent $24,000 in lobbying and campaign contributions in 2010 (source).
Joey Gilbert, Vice President of the Associated General Contractors (source) In 2010, the Associated General Contractors spent $24,000 on lobbying and campaign contributions (source).
Chris Bleak, President & full-time lobbyist for the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools (source)
Dennis Iverson, President of the Washington County Farm Bureau (source)
Ronald Wolff, Box Elder School District Superintendent
JoDee Sundburg, Alpine School District Board Member & President of the Utah School Boards Association
Christina Oliver,Utah Transit Authority Department Manager (source)
Lerron Little, was elected President of Utah Association of Realtors (UAR) for 2010 (source).  In 2010, the UAR spent over $400,000 on political contributions (source).
Thomas Bingham, Utah College of Applied Technology Board Chairman, President of the Utah Manufacturers Association (UMA) & full time lobbyist (source). In 2010, UMA spent $41,000 on campaign contributions to legislators (source).


It will be interesting to see how the committee proceeds this year, and which of the many candidates are forwarded on to the Governor.  This process, steeped on controversy, will continue until the Legislature decides to change the law.  Watch for updates to learn which candidates will appear on this year's ballots.


To read more, the Salt Lake Tribune covered the committee's first meeting and reported on it here.

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