Wake Republicans Look to Boost Majority on School Board

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CORRECTION APPENDED: An editing error attributed a quote to school board candidate Heather Losurdo when Wake Republican Party Chair Susan Bryant actually said the quote below that begins: “Having been treated pretty badly by Democrats in the past.”

The Wake County Republican Party isn’t pulling any punches as the local election season ramps up.

From recent inflammatory comments by conservative school board member John Tedesco to the first Republican school board candidacy announcement, Wake Republicans are coming out swinging.

Much is at stake on the Wake County Board of Education. Of the five seats up for grabs Oct. 11 — a majority of the nine-member board — Democratic incumbents hold four.

Chair Ron Margiotta is the only Republican on the board up for re-election.

Susan Bryant, Wake Republicans’ party chair, expressed measured confidence in the party’s chances.

“We never count votes before the election,” she said. “We anticipate in all districts candidates running as Republicans. The race has become very partisan. We’re not going to do anything but elect our candidates to be the strongest school board members as they can be.”

One Republican challenger’s hat is already in the ring.

Earlier this month, Heather Losurdo stepped down as chair of the Northern Wake Republican Club and announced her intention to run in District 3 against incumbent Kevin Hill.

Losurdo made her announcement at a Northern Wake Republicans event attended by Republican board members Tedesco, Margiotta, Chris Malone and Deborah Prickett. Of the conservative board majority, only Debra Goldman, who has voted against the majority in its attempts to move to neighborhood school assignments, was not invited.

Each board member had a chance to speak to the Northern Wake group. Tedesco took the opportunity to lambaste liberal groups such as the NAACP and the Great Schools in Wake Coalition, lumping them in with the anarchist group NC Fist as an “unholy trinity” of “cowards.”

Although Tedesco’s comments have been widely criticized, including in an editorial in The News & Observer, Bryant doesn’t foresee them negatively impacting Republican campaigns.

“I think that’s John’s opinion,” Bryant said. “He has a strong base of supporters. I’m certainly one of them. Sometimes it’s better to say what’s going on. If we don’t speak up nobody else will on those issues.”

One issue Republicans have control over now is the school board redistricting plan created by Shanahan Law Group. As of now, prior to a public hearing and possible revision, all incumbents remain in their districts, as does Losurdo.

“Having been treated pretty badly by Democrats in the past, we’re going to keep [the redistricting process] as fair and open as possible. We know what it means to be isolated. It’s a lonely feeling,” Bryant said.

Redistricting and popular support aside, money is often a deciding factor in elections. In 2009, a huge influx of money from Tea Party-affiliated groups helped sweep the current conservative school board majority into office.

Whether Republicans can keep up with Democratic fundraising this year is an open question.

In the first three months of this year, the Wake County Democratic Party raised more than $41,000, up from about $37,000 in January-March of 2010 and $38,000 in the same period of 2009.

Official tallies for Wake Republican contributions were not available at the time of this story’s publication, but Bryant estimated that they reached about $25,000.

“I don’t think we can compete money-wise, but we can with voter opinion, and that’s the important thing,” she said.

As of April 18, Hill’s campaign had raised $8,000. As of April 19, Losurdo had raised $2,155.

Read more about the Democrats’ organizing ahead of the Oct. 11 school board election.

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