UPDATE Nov. 9: In the end, the non-partisan Palm Beach County School Board race was won by Barbara McQuinn, who landed almost 62 percent of the vote in District 1 – the northernmost region of the county. Of nearly 85,000 votes cast, McQuinn claimed more than 52,000.
The two other seats up for grabs this election cycle were held without opposition in the primaries by School Board Chairman Chuck Shaw and Vice Chairman Frank Barbieri.
Just before 10 p.m. Tom Sutterfield conceded the District 1 race for School Board to opponent Barbara McQuinn.
The former Palm Beach Gardens High principal secured the only open seat on the Palm Beach County School Board, opening with a solid lead over Sutterfield Tuesday night that he was never able to eclipse.
“I don’t understand the margin, but I respect the voters of District 1. It didn’t work out,” Sutterfield said conceding the race before 10 p.m. He had expected a closer call, but instead the evening closed with about 20,000 votes separating the two.
“I feel so thrilled that grass roots support from people who really know me and know my work can actually beat big money funding a negative campaign,” McQuinn said.
The two candidates rose from a primary field of six, all vying for the seat vacated by Mike Murgio, whose legal turmoil prompted him to resign just months before his four-year term came to an end. District 1 reaches from the northern county line down into Singer Island and parts north of West Palm Beach and west of Riviera Beach.
McQuinn was a first-time board candidate who began her career teaching at Palm Beach Gardens Elementary in 1974 and went on to be principal at Palm Beach Gardens High and then area superintendent in the Glades before retiring.
This was the second shot at school board for Sutterfield, an information technology administrator with the South Florida Water Management District, whose education experience is centered in the world of charter schools.
The future role of charter schools, and both candidates’ experiences with them became a driving factor in the race, particularly as the campaign season came to a close.
Charter schools are run with public money that follows each student, but are managed privately. The number of charters and their growing enrollment have become a point of contention for the School Board which is in the midst of defending its move to begin denying some charter applications.
Sutterfield, who sits on the board of two charter schools, billed himself as a champion of parent choice, his daughters attend dance programs in the district’s premiere art middle and high schools.
In the last weeks, north county voters saw an onslaught of mailers, robo-calls and television ads supporting Sutterfield and alternately bashing McQuinn in what her advisers estimated was a $100,000 push paid for not by Sutterfield’s coffers but by various charter school management companies that funnelled the money through various political action committees with names like Free Speech Inc. and Citizen Action Inc.
Tuesday, reports indicate the fight became personal when witnesses said McQuinn’s husband berated Sutterfield’s teenage daughter as the two stood outside the polling precinct at Dwyer High School.
McQuinn confirmed that her husband confessed to a “verbal altercation” at the school. She said the family, down to her teenage grandson, had been under great duress as accusations flew about her ties to a closed charter school. Sutterfield said the exchange ended with a call to school police. He said he was appalled by Arthur McQuinn’s alleged behavior, and said his daughter was “shook up” when she called her father in tears.
Update at 9:10 p.m.:
With 92 percent of the precincts counted, veteran public educator Barbara McQuinn has held her lead over opponent Tom Sutterfield in the race to fill the District 1 seat of the Palm Beach County School Board. The split at 9:10 p.m., gave McQuinn 61 percent of the 82,000 votes counted, according to the county elections supervisor website.
At 8:46 p.m. former Palm Beach Gardens High principal Barbara McQuinn is leading opponent Tom Sutterfield in the District 1 School Board race.
With 169 of 197 precincts reporting, McQuinn has 50,081 to Sutterfield’s 31,184 votes, according to the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections site.
Meanwhile, Andrew Marra reports:
Posted: 7:40 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016
A proposal to raise Palm Beach County’s sales tax by a percentage point is receiving strong support from voters in early returns.
With results from early voting and absentee ballots and slightly more than half of county precincts counted, 57 percent of voters incidated support for the sales tax hike.