Retired Muscogee County School District teacher Mike Edmondson has beaten Kar-Tunes Car Stereo owner Bart Steed in the lone runoff election this year for a seat on the nine-member Muscogee County School Board.
With all five precincts in District 2 reporting Tuesday night, plus the early voting and mail-in absentee ballots, Edmondson beat Steed 60 percent to 40 percent, 1,450-980 votes. The only votes that could yet to be counted are any provisional ballots, which won’t be determined until the Muscogee County Board of Elections and Registration meets to certify the runoffs at 3:30 p.m. Friday.
“I’m very grateful,” Edmondson told the Ledger-Enquirer in a phone interview Tuesday night. “I’m very grateful to the people who voted for me, grateful to the people who supported me, grateful to the kids I taught for 35 years. I’m thankful for my friends and everybody who helped make my teaching career so valuable to me and valuable to others, and I hope to continue that value now. It’s all about making it better for the students and the teachers, ensuring the teachers have what they need to do their jobs and the kids are supported, all kids.”
The key to his victory, Edmondson said, was “lots and lots of people doing lots and lots of good word-of-mouth. . . . That was probably the driving force.”
Edmondson added, “I appreciate the opportunity I’ve been given. I’ll do my doggone best to make it 100 percent worthwhile.”
Steed also spoke to the Ledger-Enquirer in a phone interview Tuesday night.
“I hate that I lost — I think I could have done a lot of good for the school district on the board — but, over the last four years, I did a lot of good by being involved (in the school district), and I’ll keep doing that,” Steed said. “Hopefully, the schools will keep appreciating me.”
The difference in the race was that Edmondson secured “the teacher vote,” Steed said. “That’s the only thing I can figure. They wanted a teacher in that position. I’m sure Mike will do a good job — but I think not as good as I would have done.”
Steed also was unsuccessful in his campaign for the board’s District 2 seat four years ago. Asked whether he will try a third time, he said, “Probably not. I’ll settle back and do what I can and help where I can. I never say never, but I can take a hint. . . . I ran a fantastic campaign. There’s nothing I think I could have done different. I’m a lucky man. I have a great family, great friends and great supporters. It’s all wonderful.”
In the unofficial early voting totals from the elections office, Edmondson dominated Steed 300-164. Here are unofficial results based on Ledger-Enquirer reports from each precinct:
Britt David was the first precinct to post results Tuesday night, with Edmondson barely ahead of Steed, 50-43. St. Peter’s results followed, with Edmondson more than doubling Steed, 115-54. And the candidates tied in the Cornerstone precinct, 178-178. The Wynnbrook precinct was next, with Edmondson edging Steed 232-205. Lastly, St. Mark reported, with Edmondson commanding Steed, 470-300.
The elections office also reported 176 mail-in absentee ballots were requested from District 2 voters, but how many Edmondson and Steed received wasn’t available by deadline.
The turnout was 15.7 percent, 2,524 of the 16,052 registered voters in District 2.
Edmondson and Steed emerged from the May 22 nonpartisan general election as the top two finishers in the three-way race. But neither garnered a majority of the votes, forcing the runoff. Edmondson received 47 percent and finished first in all five of the District 2 precincts. Steed received 30 percent and Aflac claims specialist Sheryl Hobbs McCraine 23 percent. Out of 16,052 registered voters in District 2, only 4,323 of them (27 percent) voted in any race during that election and only 3,944 of them (25 percent) voted in the District 2 school board race.
Thomas supported McCraine in the May 22 election. Although neither Edmondson nor Steed asked for his endorsement, Thomas said last week that he planned to vote for Edmondson in the runoff. The Ledger-Enquirer didn’t reach McCraine to determine which candidate she favored.
The board’s four other seats up for election this year were decided May 22:
Edmondson, 63, the 1990 MCSD Teacher of the Year, taught Advanced Placement chemistry and physics in MCSD for 33 years, with stints at Spencer, Hardaway and Northside high schools. His other awards include Georgia Secondary Schools Science Teacher of the Year and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Mathematics. He tried to raise money to buy the historic but dilapidated Bibb Elementary School from the MCSD board to establish an “iSTEAM center” for science and arts education. But he couldn’t raise the necessary money before Georgia state rep. Earl Davis bought the property to most likely convert the building into apartments.
Steed, 60, who failed to get into the runoff in the four-way 2014 District 2 race, has 40 years of business experience and has served on several school district advisory or oversight committees, including for alternative education, the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax and the College and Career Academy being planned for Jordan Vocational High School.
One of the issues in this race has been whether Steed has a conflict of interest. The Ledger-Enquirer reported March 8 that his Kar-Tunes company has a contract worth an estimated $165,000 to service the heating, ventilation and air conditioning on MCSD buses. But the law allows him to be a candidate and to be elected with such a contract but requires him to relinquish the contract before he would join the board Jan. 1.
Ironically, Edmondson briefly relinquished his part-time job with MCSD when an elections official erroneously told him, he said, that he couldn’t be on the ballot for a school board position while employed by the school district. But county elections director Nancy Boren subsequently notified Edmondson that he indeed could continue as the scheduler for Rainey-McCullers School of the Arts but would have to resign before taking office if he wins the election.