NC: Bush, Dole strategists and PAC money paved way for school board takeover
Community sit-ins and protests have rocked the Wake County School Board in reaction to its March 23rd vote to cut the county’s diversity policy and end the student busing system. In the wake of the proposed changes, Board Superintendent Del Burns resigned, saying, “based upon personal and obligatory considerations, it is clear to me that I cannot in good conscience continue to serve as superintendent.”
These events were preceded by an election the previous fall, when the school board changed drastically. Republicans won all four open seats, turning an 8-1 Democratic majority to a 5-4 Republican majority. What changed the balance of power in a county that President Obama won with 56 percent of the vote? Republicans organized for this often low-turnout election with aggressive fundraising and the aid of political action committees (PACs), a strategy not often associated with county school board elections.
The Take Wake Schools Back PAC, run by influential power brokers who have worked at high levels in Republican presidential and Senate campaigns, also backed the four winning candidates. The PAC’s founder, Dennis Berwyn, is owner of LIDEN Enterprises, LLC and Apex International, Inc., both PR and communications firms. Berwyn has also worked as special projects manager for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and Tennessee field director for the Bush/Cheney campaign during the 2000 election. Collin McMichael, treasurer of TWSB PAC, worked as director of operations for the Elizabeth Dole Committee, a fundraising PAC. He is also president of CM&Co., LLC, a management consulting firm, described on his Linked in web page as, “specializing in Federal and State Election Law, Accounting, Direct Mail and Committee Operations.”
And that PAC wasn’t alone. The Wake Schools Community Alliance PAC raised nearly $37,000 during the election period and endorsed all four of the winning candidates. The PAC donated $2,500 each to Deborah Prickett and Debra Goldman, $2,650 to Chris Malone and $5,300 to John Tedesco, and spent an additional $16,000 on campaign mailers.
Overall, Tedesco led all candidates in fundraising, pulling in $29,201. Goldman came in second, with $18,847, and Malone raised $18,186. Democrat Horace Tart, the only incumbent seeking reelection, was defeated in the District 2 race by Tedesco, who out-raised Tart by more than three to one.
The Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, has threatened to file lawsuits over what he claims would be the re-segregation of schools. Following the March 23 vote, Barber said he plans to fight what the “the anti-diversity, right-wing, tea party-sympathizing, resegregationist caucus is doing in Wake County.” Rev. Barber also expressed that he and supporters of the current policies were caught flat-footed during the fall elections and were surprised at the results.
On July 15, Barber and three others were arrested at a school board meeting for occupying the board chambers and refusing to leave. On July 20, 1,000 people marched to oppose the policy changes and police arrested 19 people later that day for disrupting another school board meeting.
Five seats on the school board are up for election in 2011.
There is a significant untold story about how the state Republican Party quietly interfered in this local school board election and has now taken over control of the board for the purpose of executing the far-right agenda promoted by the state Republican Party’s top benefactors, Luddy and Pope. Keep going.