school board district 3 race west volusia

While most of Volusia County School Board District 3 is on the county’s east side, residents on the eastern edges of Deltona, Lake Helen and Osteen will have a say in the race.

Following the decision of School Board Member Linda Cuthbert to give up the seat, candidates Justin Kennedy, Kim Short and Jessie Thompson are vying to replace her, in a race colored by the nationwide politicization of school boards.

While none of the candidates for School Board District 3 has been endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis — who endorsed Fred Lowry in the District 5 race — each has picked up high-profile endorsements that signal how the candidates may approach the job.

Kennedy was endorsed by Cuthbert, the outgoing School Board member.

Thompson was endorsed by well-known Republican state Rep. Paul Renner and Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood.

Short, meanwhile, picked up an endorsement from the conservative activist organization Moms for Liberty.

Of the three, Kennedy is the only candidate with experience serving as a publicly elected official; he was elected to the Edgewater City Council in 2009. In 2014, Kennedy launched a bid for the Volusia County Council seat held by Deb Denys, but he was defeated.

Kennedy’s campaign coffers, as of the end of July, had around $25,000. He has received donations from a number of construction and engineering companies, as well as $200 from former Florida Rep. Joyce Cusack and a $1,000 donation from Cobb Cole attorney Nika Hosseini, whose father, ICI Homes owner Mori Hosseini, has connections with Gov. DeSantis and other Florida politicians.

Kennedy is a registered Democrat.

Thompson is a stay-at-home mom and works as a public communicator with experience in management. She also performs stand-up comedy.

Thompson formally announced her run for the School Board at an event hosted by the Atlantic Federated Republican Women, a Volusia County-based political organization. In her speech, Thompson cited a number of problems she had with the public school system, including education about sexuality and the removal of what she referred to as “Christian ideology” from public schools.

“This is just really bothersome, is how much — well society, as we all know — but schools, too, are trying to cleanse the schools of any Christian ideology. Now, I’m not behind it, but I could understand if they did that because it’s faith-based,” Thompson said. “But everything is faith-based. … If you believe the monkey at the zoo was walking one day and then magically turned into a man, that is faith-based.”

Thompson’s campaign funds, as of the end of July, had reached nearly $40,000, more than her opponents by a $15,000 margin.

Donors to her campaign include conservative groups and politicians: $1,000 from U.S. House candidate Cory Mills, $1,000 each from two Tallahassee-based conservative political action committees  (Florida Foundation for Liberty and Conservatives for Principled Leadership) associated with Rep. Paul Renner, $100 from controversial congressional candidate Anthony Sabatini and a $1,000 donation from Foundation Risk Partners, an insurance and consulting firm whose chief legal officer is Florida Rep. Tom Leek.

Thompson also received $4,000 from Mori Hosseini’s wife, Forough Hosseini, and others connected with the family and ICI Homes.

She is a registered Republican.

Kim Short is involved with a number of parent teacher advisory committees in Volusia County and has worked as a substitute teacher since 2021. She has also been a regular speaker at School Board meetings, especially when hot topics like mask mandates, which Short opposed, were on the agenda.

The Volusia County chapter of Moms for Liberty — the conservative political activist group that formed as a reaction to COVID-19 mitigation policies — commended Short’s experience working in school PTAs as well as for helping the organization get a foothold in Volusia County.

“When the newly formed Moms for Liberty Volusia parents came on the scene to school board meetings as newcomers,” Secretary Anna Hannon said in a statement, “Kim was very helpful in showing moms the ropes and explaining the historical issues.”

Short is also an administrator of the Facebook group Volusia County School Forum, which has more than 12,000 members. Members of the group share news and talk about Volusia County Schools events. However, COVID-19-related news often turned the group into a hub for arguments, frustration with the school district, and misinformation.

Short also came under fire recently when a former candidate for District 3, Wendy Weisheimer, alleged that Short had bullied her and made threats to her job.

On July 27, after Weisheimer was quoted in a news article about Short in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, the two ran into each other at an event at The Bagel Barn Cafe and Deli in Edgewater. Weisheimer called Edgewater Police, and told them Short was “confrontational” and had threatened Weisheimer’s job and family if she did not “contact the publisher to have the article removed,” according to the police incident report.

When asked about the incident, Short described it differently.

“She approached me at The Bagel Barn. We never raised our voices, and no scene was made,” Short told The Beacon. “I never threatened Ms. Weisheimer — ever.”

Short’s campaign fund had around $24,000 as of Aug. 5, including $1,000 from conservative Florida Sen. Tom Wright, $1,000 from the Friends of Tom Wright PAC, $1,000 from Cory Mills and $250 from Moms for Liberty Florida.

Short is a registered Republican.

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