Three words sum up why some DeKalb County School Board incumbents were re-elected Nov. 2, officials said–connection with voters.
Jim Redovian and Zepora W. Roberts are facing runoffs, but the other three incumbents–Sarah Copelin-Wood, Jesse “Jay” Cunningham and Eugene Walker–kept their seats. Redovian and Roberts did not receive the 50.1 percent of the vote required to avoid a runoff.
In District 1, Redovian received 44.55 percent of the vote to newcomer Nancy Jester’s 45.75 percent. In District 7, Roberts received 37.04 percent of the vote, while her opponent Donna Edler, received 30.74 percent.
Despite eduKALB’s endorsement of an all new slate of candidates with the exception of one board member, voters cast their ballots based on relationships, officials said.
“The community looked at what I’ve done over the past three years and said he’s visible, he’s concerned about our kids and he’s got things done,” said Cunningham, the District 5 incumbent who won 64 percent of the vote.
Board chairman, Tom Bowen, said although eduKALB’s mission to facilitate improved school board leadership deserves applause, its candidates somehow missed the mark.
“This shows that voters in each individual district made up their own minds, instead of allowing the media or the eduKALB endorsement to sway them,” Bowen said.
“Jay had the best connection to the community – to the voters. This simply means mailers and endorsements are no substitute for getting out into the community listening to people, and getting to know your constituents.”
Nine days before the election, it was reported that Cunningham was convicted in 1982 of stealing $12,500 in bank deposits from a Decatur McDonald’s where he was store manager.
“The relationships that I have established in my community helped me know what people want and how to serve them. I have a connection with the people in my district. Everything else is irrelevant,” he added.
Cunningham legally did not have to divulge his criminal history because Georgia’s First Offender Act permits offenders to state that they have not been convicted of a felony if they successfully complete the terms of their sentence.
Against Cunningham, eduKALB-endorsed candidate Kirk. A. Nooks received12.09 percent of the vote while Jaques Hall Jr. got 23.52 percent.
One eduKalb-endorsed candidate won–9th District incumbent Eugene Walker.
Walker, who received 55 percent of the vote compared to opponent Ella “Coach” Smith’s 44.2 percent, said he’s glad to have eked by.
“The mood of voters is unpredictable. I am so grateful the voters chose me compared to the lady I ran against. She is a very intelligent woman and long-time educator,” Walker said.
“There has been an anti-incumbent sentiment. In my case and Mr. Cunningham’s the voters have spoken. I’m sure he is just as grateful. I feel that in his case, the media overstepped its boundaries to bring up something so old. He has turned his life around since then. He’s been doing incredible work,” he added.