Former foe endorses incumbent John Wells in school board runoff

mrice@ledger-enquirer.comMay 23, 2014 

John Wells, who currently holds the Muscogee County School Board district 2 seat, answers questions during a forum held by the Columbus branch of the NAACP while his challengers John "Bart" Steed, Victor Morales, and John F Thomas wait their turn.

PHOTO BY JOE PAULL — jpaull@ledger-enquirer.com Buy Photo

Victor Morales was one of the three candidates who challenged incumbent John Wells for the District 2 seat on the Muscogee County School Board. Now, he has endorsed the board's 28-year veteran in advance of the July 22 runoff against the top vote-getter, political rookie John F. Thomas.

Morales mentioned two main reasons Friday for seemingly flip-flopping his opinion:

• Wells has expressed more interest than Thomas in expanding the school district's Work-Based Learning program, which Morales is involved with as the training and development coordinator for Pratt & Whitney.

• Wells has run a more positive campaign than Thomas.

Morales acknowledged his reasons for qualifying to run against Wells haven't changed -- that residents were angry at the school board's majority for approving no-bid contracts and voting down all of the administration's May 2012 personnel recommendations without explanation.

What did change during the campaign, however, is that Wells approached him and convinced him "we could work together to bring in more of the programs I want," Morales said. He also didn't like "the negative campaigning" he saw from Thomas. "They've got to work together on the board when it's over," Morales said.

Wells welcomed Morales' support.

"I think that's good news," said Wells, 74, a businessman with interests mostly in property management and construction. "We talked during the campaign, and, as far as I'm concerned, he made a lot of sense, trying to educate more students by getting them into positions in industry."

Thomas, 59, an Internal Revenue Service agent, said, "Victor's endorsement of John Wells is puzzling to me, but it does not change the fact that 72 percent of the people already voted against John Wells on Election Day."

The Muscogee County Board of Elections and Registration met Friday afternoon to consider provisional ballots and finalize Tuesday’s election results. Only six provisional ballots had the potential to alter the results in District 2, said Nancy Boren, executive director of the elections board, and the board accepted three: one for Thomas and two for Wells. So the official results of the race are Thomas with 35.27 percent of the District 2 votes (1,450), Wells with 27.58 percent (1,334), Kar-Tunes owner John “Bart” Steed with 26.59 percent (1,093) and Morales with 10.44 percent (429). There were five write-in votes.

The Ledger-Enquirer already reported that Steed has chosen not to endorse anybody in the runoff.

Early runoff voting will be June 30 through July 18, Mondays-Fridays, at only the City Services Center. The poll will be closed July 4.

Mark Rice, 706-576-6272. Follow Mark on Twitter@MarkRiceLE.

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