LINCOLN, Maine — Write-in candidates who questioned the leadership of RSU 67 and Superintendent Denise Hamlin failed to secure seats, but two on-the-ballot challengers defeated school board incumbents in Tuesday’s election, official vote results released Thursday show.
Debra McIntyre garnered 699 votes, incumbent Debra Tardy earned 551 and James Sutherland received 534 to each win three-year terms. Incumbents Jeffrey Schick and Darla Lichtenberg earned 436 and 433 votes and write-ins Dolores “Dolly” Phillips and Tonya McLauglin earned 305 and 215 votes. Another declared write-in candidate, Melissa Troulis, received 22 votes.
Incumbent Dave Shannon defeated write-in challenger Samuel Clay, a former Town Council member who opted not to run again for the council, in the race for a two-year board seat by earning 985 votes, according to the totals. Clay earned 32 vote.
In the Town Council race, former Town Council Chairman Steve Clay and incumbent Councilor Marscella Ireland were elected to seats in unchallenged races.
Steve Clay earned 1,030 votes in his quest to replace his younger brother. Ireland, who serves on the council with her husband, Michael, earned 999 votes.
The large number of write-in school board candidates created a lot of work for Town Clerk Shelly Crosby and the 15 volunteer election workers and eight vote counters who were at the polls at Mattanawcook Academy until 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, she said.
“I knew that we were going to have a large number of write-ins [on the ballots] so I wanted to ensure that each ballot got the inspection it needed to have,” Crosby said Thursday.
Crosby and other workers entered vote totals and double-checked ballots from 8 a.m. to about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday before arriving at totals, she said. About 702 ballots were examined with the handwritten names entered individually and exactly as written in a spreadsheet program, she said.
Perhaps spurred by the school board race, voters also wrote in 37 names for the two three-year council seats. Another 27 names were written into the school board race, including what might have been several misspellings of candidates’ names.
No one knew why voters chose to cast write-in ballots for candidates whose names were already on the ballot.
Samuel Clay, McLaughlin, Phillips and Troulis declared their candidacies for school board seats at a candidates meet-and-greet about two weeks ago. Though not necessarily allies, they said they became candidates to correct a school board that appears to support an abrupt, top-down management style that leaves some school staff fearing intimidation and others questioning why many changes are occurring.
Hamlin and the school board Chairwoman Jackie Thurlow defended their performance, saying that the changes to the school system were occurring because of budget cuts, new state mandates and a desire for increased efficiency.