SEQUIM — A candidate for a Sequim School Board seat who said she was withdrawing from the race soon after she filed is leading after two counts of primary election ballots.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Kristi Schmeck had won 2,581 votes, or 29.1 percent of ballots cast, with Virginia R. Sheppard in second with 2,497 votes, or 28.1 percent, and Rachel Tax in third with 2,359 votes or 26.6 percent.
Derek Huntington, with 1,420 votes, or 16 percent, was fourth.
The race was on both the Clallam County and Jefferson County ballots, with Tax earning the most Jefferson County votes (31) followed by Schmeck (26), Sheppard (19) and Huntington (18).
Lineups could change after the next count of ballots in the primary election, which narrows to two the candidates for each position on the Nov. 2 ballot.
Schmeck could not be reached for comment on her plans on Wednesday.
She said in a June 1 email to the Sequim Gazette that “I am in the process of withdrawing my candidacy for the At-large school board position due to personal reasons.”
Her name, however, remained on the primary ballot and will be on the November ballot.
Bruce Cowan, chair of the 24th Legislative District Democrats, said Wednesday that the last opportunity for a candidate to withdraw from an election is the Monday following the May filing week, and that Schmeck essentially suspended her race rather than withdrew.
“Candidates use the wrong terminology sometimes and don’t understand that their name cannot be taken off the ballot. They are not out of the race,” he said Wednesday. “They are just not campaigning any more. They can still jump in later.”
Two director positions with the Sequim School Board are up for election this year after both incumbents declined to run for re-election. School board president Brandino Gibson, director-at-large, and Brian Kuh, District 2 director, both declined to file for their positions during the mid-May filing period.
While four candidates filed for Gibson’s seat, just one, Patrice (“Pat”) Johnston, filed for Kuh’s District 2 position.
In the Clallam County Voter’s Guide, Schmeck lists her professional experience as an educator/coach for more than 25 years and a charter school athletic director.
“I created a mentoring program for elementary and high school students at the Charter school,” she wrote.
She also volunteered as a middle school youth group leader at a church for the past two years, ran an after-school program at Sequim Middle School (2019-2020) and volunteered for sports programs as a coach and manager for basketball, baseball and swimming teams.
“As a Mother and Grandmother, I’m committed to the health and future success of our youth,” Schmeck wrote. “Running for School Board gives me the opportunity to bring my passion and years of experience to the next level, and collaborate to make positive changes that are visibly needed in our schools.”
Sheppard, a long-time Clallam County resident who is supported by the Independent Advisory Association, said in a press release in May that she would focus on “an educational environment that fosters growth, community and citizenship.”
She was not available for comment on Wednesday.
Sheppard said in a press release, “I am running as a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. I ask the question, are the Sequim schools doing all they can to prepare our kids for success in the 21st century world?”
Sheppard is a mother of two and a grandmother, with four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. She has experience in schools as a former volunteer art teacher, teacher’s aide, as well as a treasurer for parent-teacher groups.
“I am concerned about the move toward implementing subjects like Critical Race Theory imprudently which if implemented without proper community vetting can serve only to divide and discriminate,” she said in the statement. “I believe our children can benefit from learning about accurate history, learning about the Constitution, reading, writing and math.”
Tax is a mother of four, with her oldest graduating kindergarten at the end of this school year and her second-oldest starting kindergarten this fall.
“It is a pretty tight race,” she said Wednesday, after the initial ballot count. “There are still ballots to be counted, hopefully enough to push me into the top two.”
She said she thought her background as a mother with children in the school district likely resonated with voters.
“I want the schools to be the best they can be, not just for my kids but all the kids in the district,” Tax said in a late May interview, not long after filing for office.
A Sequim-area resident the past four years, Tax said she’d like to see some change in demographics on the current board — a governing board that will affect her children’s schooling for years, she noted.
“The current board (is) all men; I think we need a mom on the board,” Tax said in May.
In May, Huntington said he is familiar with Sequim schools, enrolling at Helen Haller Elementary at the start of his fourth-grade year and graduating from SHS in 2004. He’s lived in Sequim for 25 years.
He said he filed to run for school board because he disagreed with the way some situations were handled at the school board level, including the placing on leave of three administrators.
“I think I could bring some change,” Huntington said.
As for major issues facing the board, he said, “the biggest thing is getting back into school regularly.”
Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].