It’s not a stretch to say that partisan politics on a national level don’t really reflect the local issues individuals in places like Volusia County care about.
And that makes sense — Volusia County is just the teeniest, tiniest fraction of what people like the president and the heads of the Democratic and Republican parties are supposed to care about. So why are the hyperpartisan talking points of the national stage so present in Volusia County?
Nowhere is this seen more than in the Volusia County School Board races. The School Board is where nonpartisan elected officials make tough decisions about how public schools are run countywide.
In this election cycle, there has been a concerted effort by far-right candidates to take over the School Board.
In August, Volusia County Council Member Fred Lowry lost a bid to unseat incumbent School Board Member Ruben Colón in the District 5 race. Lowry was outspoken about his far-right, conspiratorial politics, but voters chose the hardworking respiratory therapist over the COVID-19 and 2020 election-results denier.
In the race for District 1, which includes the DeLand area, far-right candidate Jaclyn Carrell — who claimed she was in a “spiritual war” to defeat her political opponents — was knocked out in the primary by incumbent Jamie Haynes, who now faces longtime educator Al Bouie in the District 1 runoff.
Haynes is running for re-election and has been endorsed by the local Moms for Liberty chapter, a far-right organization responsible for nationwide initiatives to ban library books they worry are indoctrinating children, and not in a way they like.
Voters have already proved in two School Board races that extremist candidates don’t represent them.
Running for the District 3 School Board seat, which represents mostly the east side of the county — and a small portion of southwest Volusia — there’s Jessie Thompson, a candidate who has been clear about her stance on hot-button political issues since she first filed to run for office.
She wants what she calls Christian ideology in classrooms, and some of the biggest issues facing children, she told a crowd at a Volusia County Republican Party event, are, “Sexualization at young ages, CRT [critical race theory] and being divided,” and “not being taught to read or do math.”
Thompson’s a political outsider, but she’s made connections fast. Thousands of dollars for her campaign have come from political-action committees in Tallahassee that are connected to Republican politicians, and she’s been endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, as Lowry was in the primary.
Local political bodies function best when they reflect their communities. Our communities are made up of people of all ideologies, races, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientations and gender identities, so it makes sense that our County Council, our School Board and our city commissions are nonpartisan.
Before you fill out your ballot for the Tuesday, Nov. 8, election, ask yourself these questions:
What do we want for the future of our communities? Do we want it to be dictated by agenda-pushing partisans, or do we want candidates who are willing to work together with the rest of the community and can truly put aside their political or religious beliefs to do what’s best for all the people they represent?