Nov 2, 2022 - News

The contentious Wake County school board races on the ballot

Illustration of a stack of books with an apple sitting on top of them with ballot imagery and shapes behind it

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

At a moment when schools have become ground zero for political fights over gender and sexuality, COVID's impact on learners, and teaching students history through the lens of race, all nine Wake County school board seats are up for grabs.

Why it matters: The winners will be tasked with ensuring students in North Carolina's largest school district receive a sound, basic education.

  • They'll allocate state and federal funding and set policy, and they can remove or elect a superintendent.

Some races have become highly contentious, as candidates have lobbed attacks at incumbents for their handling of school closures during the pandemic and their positions on school resource officers and controversial books.

  • In the county's District 8 race, one candidate, Steve Bergstrom, has an entire page on his website dedicated to talking about his opponent, incumbent Wake County school board chair Lindsay Mahaffey.
  • "Should a child be locked in a closet at school?" one ad reads. "Ask School Board Chair Lindsay Mahaffey."

The other side: “It’s one thing to have to defend your record," Chris Heagarty, the board’s vice chair, told The News & Observer's editorial board. "It’s another to have to constantly correct misinformation and conspiracy theories.”

Worth noting: Although these races seem political, they're technically nonpartisan. Candidates' party affiliations are not listed on the ballot, but some candidates tout their political leanings.

To see which district you live in, head to the state’s voter registration lookup, search your name and scroll until you see a heading titled “YOUR SAMPLE BALLOT.” Click the link under “Your Sample Ballot(s).”

District 1 (northeastern Wake, includes Zebulon, Wendell and Wake Forest)

With no incumbent in the district, Ben Clapsaddle, a director of operations for Fort Bragg's FORSCOM G-2, will face Cheryl Caulfield, a property manager.

District 2 (south Wake, includes Fuquay Varina and Garner)

Dorian Hamilton will face Monica Ruiz, who says on her website she has worked in Wake County Public Schools, most recently as a Virtual Academy 5th grade teacher, and Monika Johnson-Hostler, the incumbent in the race who leads North Carolina's Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

District 3 (northern Wake)

With no incumbent, Brooks Lowe will face Doug Hammack, a minister at Common Thread Church, and Wing Ng, a Raleigh physician.

District 4 (east Raleigh, includes Knightdale)

Becky Lew-Hobbs is up against Daniel Grant-King, a special education co-teacher in Wake County Schools, Michael Williams, a licensed school counselor who has served as a superintendent, and Tara Waters, the incumbent.

District 5 (south Raleigh)

With no incumbent in the race, Dawn Townsend will face Jackie Boegel, a music teacher, Lynn Edmonds, a public outreach director for Public Schools First NC, and Ross Beamon.

District 6 (includes downtown Raleigh)

Five candidates are vying for an open seat: Chad Stall, Dajma Livingston, Mary-Lewis Freeman, N.C. State lecturer Patrice Nealon, and Sam Hershey, CEO and founder of Just in Case Planning.

District 7 (northwest Raleigh)

Chris Heagarty, the incumbent and vice-chair of the school board, faces Jacob Arthur, a lawyer, and Katie Long.

District 8 (southwest Wake County, includes Apex and Holly Springs)

Lindsay Mahaffey, the incumbent and chair of the board, is up against Steve Bergstrom, an airline captain.

District 9 (includes Cary)

With no incumbent, Michele Morrow, a registered nurse, faces Tara Ann Cartwright and Tyler Swanson, a former special education teacher.

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