I was hoping I wouldn’t have to do this. I was hoping this relatively innocuous campaign for school board wouldn’t come to this. But, it has. And I feel compelled to respond.
As many of you know, I am heavily involved in the Kenny Rivera for Red Clay School Board campaign. At this point, I consider Kenny a good friend of mine and I am doing my darnedest to get him elected. He works in the Brandywine School District and is looking to bring some new blood to the Red Clay School Board.
Disclaimer: I served on the Red Clay Education Association candidate endorsement committee. We asked both candidates — Kenny and Joanne Johansen — the SAME set of questions. Once both interviews were complete, our committee made a recommendation to our representative council to endorse Kenny Rivera for this election. Our rep council endorsed Kenny unanimously based on the merit of the responses received in the interview.
A month later and the campaign is in full swing. Kenny is out at PTA/PTO/PTSO meetings. He’s knocked on nearly a thousand doors in the District, and he’s doing everything he needs to do to get his name out there. He’s also got a committed team working for him. He’s raised more than $5000 from mostly small donors; this is an impressive amount for a “lowly” school board race! All the while we have maintained a positive campaign on the issues.
But tonight has changed a few things. Around 9pm, my mother received a phone call from a Delaware Opinion Research firm. I knew this call was coming. I’d heard about it earlier in the day from a teacher colleague of mine. A teacher colleague, who, after identifying himself as a teacher, was told to “have a good night.” Apparently, these pollsters don’t want the opinions of teachers.
So my mother gets the call. I already know what the call’s about; it’s a push poll by the folks supporting our opponent, Ms. Johansen. I won’t go through all the questions in the poll, many of which were completely antagonistic to the idea of a teacher — a TEACHER! — serving on a school board. I will point out several of the zingers.
1) Would you support a candidate who is a leader at a school PTO?
–This question is obviously a positive for Joanne, who is a leader in her school’s PTO.
2) Would you support a candidate supported by local business leaders?
–Another positive for Joanne, who has received the endorsement of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce.
3) Would you support a candidate supported by the teachers’ union?
–That word. UNION. It scares lots of people. And the pollsters know it. Yes, our candidate, Kenny Rivera, has been endorsed by the Red Clay teachers’ union. We have hidden nothing. Does this make him any less qualified to run for school board? Will this make him beholden to the outrageous “DEMANDS” of the teachers’ union? How about you ask previously-endorsed candidates Kim Williams, Ken Woods, Martin Wilson, Leah Davis, Eric Randolph, and Cathy Thompson whether we “union thugs” ever try and exert some influence on the business they do.
Number 4 is the kicker. Read this: Would you support a candidate who is a teacher: My mother answered an emphatic “Yes.” This triggered a follow-up. “Would you support a candidate who was a teacher if you knew his serving on the school board would constitute a conflict of interest?” My mother is one smart woman. Her response: It wouldn’t be a conflict of interest. The candidate to whom you’re referring works for another school district. Not Red Clay!
Now, the questioner isn’t expecting an answer like that. This poll is expecting an answer of “No, I wouldn’t support a candidate with a conflict of interest.” Which is what I’m sure lots of people will be saying. This will then give whomever is receiving this poll data ammunition. Ammunition to come after our candidate who is well within his rights to run for this seat on the Red Clay School Board and whose exercising of those rights shouldn’t trigger such misinformation from those who are supporting our opponent.
Let me say this, as I’m sure it will be misinterpreted by some who read this: I have no problem with Joanne Johansen. I have met her and she is a cordial, receptive, and intelligent woman. If elected, I have no doubt she will serve excellently on the Board. I have big problems with the individuals who are backing her campaign — both the ones who are actually ACCOUNTED for on her campaign finance report as well as the ones who are unaccounted for and who are making donations behind the scenes. More on that later.
Time for bed now. Tomorrow brings another day of students, meetings, and working for Kenny Rivera, a man for whom I’ve gained an amazing amount of respect and who should be the next person elected to the Red Clay School Board on May 8.