The Portland school board in 2019. General Counsel Liz Large and Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero sit to the left. Board members (from left to right) are: Amy Kohnstamm, Mike Rosen, Julia Brim-Edwards, Chair Rita Moore, Vice Chair Julie Esparza-Brown, Paul Anthony and Scott Bailey. Nick Paesler, a Cleveland High School senior, is the board’s student representative.
There’s an election on Tuesday. But so far, only about 8 percent of eligible voters in Multnomah County have returned their ballots, according to the county elections office.
Those figures are a tad bit low for an odd-numbered special election year, when school board races are the main event across the state aside from the odd request for education or public safety funding in some counties.
In 2017, Multnomah County had an unusually high final turnout of 31 percent — but that was with a $790 million school modernization bond on the line, which voters approved 66 percent to 34 percent.
That year, more than 14 percent of eligible voters had returned their ballots by the Thursday before the election. In 2015, 10.3 percent of eligible voters had returned their ballots on the same day.
Portland also played host to a school board race that cost more than a quarter-million dollars to settle that year. Amy Kohnstamm spent $130,000 to unseat incumbent Bobbie Reagan, whose campaign raised $180,000 for her re-election.
Black community activists host school board candidates during NE Portland forum
About half the candidates who will appear on the ballot in May attended the meeting at Maranatha Church Saturday.
Kohnstamm won the Zone 3 seat and is the only incumbent seeking a second term on the Portland school board this year. She’s challenged by education advocate Deb Mayer and Wes Soderback, a perennial candidate for local office.
Kohnstamm’s campaign has raised nearly $11,200 this cycle but has spent little more than $1,400. Mayer has raised $656 and spent about $226.
Soderback has spent about $4,780 and has a war chest worth more than $96,000, much of it the remnants of $100,000 he contributed to his campaign during an unsuccessful bid for a seat on the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners last year.
The biggest election cycle spender this year is Portland Housing Bureau Policy Coordinator Michelle DePass, who has raised more than $41,000 in her bid to win the Zone 2 seat being vacated by Paul Anthony. She’s so far spent $31,687.
Her competitor, Portland State University administrator Shanice Clarke, has raised $11,060 and spent $8,128.
In Zone 1, Andrew Scott, the chief operating officer for the regional Metro government, is the only candidate running an active campaign although child psychiatrist Jeff Sosne will appear on the ballot. Sosne told The Oregonian/OregonLive that he was not pursuing the seat.
Portland school construction costs could top $1 billion; district officials lack ‘rationale or explanation’ for low-ball estimates
An audit of a 2017 measure approved by voters finds district officials knowingly gave low estimates against the recommendations of modernization office staff.
And in Zone 7, Portland pastor Eilidh Lowery has spent $3,800 of the $8,311 her campaign has collected. Her opponent, Robert Schultz, indicated he would not raise or spend more than $750.
Incoming board members will decide whether to ask the city’s voters to extend a five-year property tax levy that in the coming budget will provide $94.7 million for the district’s general fund. The local option expires this year, which means it would need to appear on the ballot in November lest it lapse.
Next year, the school board is expected to ask voters to approve another multimillion-dollar bond to fund school modernizations. The most recent set of taxpayer-funded construction projects, which district officials told voters would cost $790 million, is facing cost over-runs topping $200 million.
Ballots for the 2019 special election are due Tuesday at 8 p.m.
We sent questionnaires to every candidate for Portland school board just before ballots were mailed out. Here are the links to their full responses:
–Eder Campuzano | 503-221-4344
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