You may have heard there is an election taking place tomorrow.
November 6, 2018 qualifies as an uneventful day in municipal politics. Lost amid all of the discussion of who will be Connecticut’s next Governor, or which party which hold the state senate or house, is the one citywide race Stamford voters have to decide upon, for three seats on the Board of Education.
First, some background. There are nine total seats on the Stamford Board of Education, with each member serving a three-year term staggered such that three seats come open every year. This year, incumbent chairman David Mannis is running for re-election, as are incumbent Republicans Frank Cerasoli and Mike Altamura. However, due to a filing glitch, their names will not be found in the “Republican” line, but instead as petitioning candidates on ballot line “I.” (You can find sample ballots available on the town clerk’s website here: https://www.stamfordct.gov/registrar-of-voters/pages/sample-ballots. Take care to make sure to flip the ballot over to the second side—the Board of Education race is on there.)
Challenging the incumbents are Democrats Jon Gallup and Jackie Pioli, as well as Green Party candidate Michael Schmidt.
However, the state of Connecticut has minority party representation rules, which, in effect, limit the maximum number of members of one party who can serve on any city governmental body which is elected at-large (contrasted, for example, with our Board of Representatives, who, as representatives of geographic areas within the city, can be all Democrats or Republicans, as their constituents elect). Here, the Board of Education has nine total members, so only six seats can be occupied by Democrats. As five Democrats on the Board are not up for re-election, only one of Mannis, Gallup, and Pioli can be elected.
Further, Gallup has not been campaigning, and is simply a placeholder to occupy the third Democratic ballot spot. And while it is theoretically possible for Green Party candidate Schmidt to prevail over Cerasoli and Altamura, given the latters’ incumbency and name recognition, it seems unlikely. Accordingly, even though everyone has three votes in the Board of Education race, a vote for all three Democrats (or even just both Mannis and Pioli) is in effect a vote for none. In sum, the race is more-or-less between just Mannis and Pioli.
Onto the race itself: It’s exceedingly difficult to determine if any individual member of the Board, or the Board as a body, is doing a “good” or “bad” job. The most pressing issue seems to be mold in the public schools, which is closing classrooms and running up necessary but unbeneficial expenses to the district. Pioli mentioned the mold issue is her first priority in the voter guide offered by the League of Women Voters of Stamford (Mannis did not respond to the guide, although I would not necessarily conclude that was because he simply ignored the request; sometimes these questionnaires get misplaced, lost in the mail, etc.).
One issue we will keep an eye to moving forward is the performance of Superintendent Earl Kim. The Board seems generally pleased with the job he’s done, as they recently granted him a three-year contract extension, and approved the Board of Education’s last budget without objection. The only apparent source of discontent from the Board regarding Kim is from Republican-turned-Democrat Andy George: George abstained on the budget vote, and voted against Kim’s extension. George has not offered public comment about his reasons to vote against the contract extension, and we decline to speculate further as to his motives for dissent.
So, no endorsements this round from Team Stamford. We hope everyone makes it to the polls (if you haven’t already), and look forward to keeping you informed into the New Year and beyond!