Archive for Thursday, March 22, 2007

USD 232 contenders pick sides

March 22, 2007

De Soto USD 232 board candidates have learned politics of association. With four contested races on next month's ballot, candidates are finding it is easier to campaign as a group than go it alone.

Campaign materials for candidates Bob Dyche, Bill Fletcher and Kevin Straub ask voters to make a "clean sweep" by voting out all three of the incumbents running. Dyche said voters should not see it as a party-line vote.

"Too often people vote for a candidate just because he's in their party," Dyche said. "The candidates who are calling for change tend to agree more on the future of our district, but I do think citizens should investigate their candidates before making a decision."

Several incumbent candidates have appeared together along with former board member Jim Thomas. Thomas, Sandra Thierer, Rick Walker and Don Clark recently spoke together at several events and meet-the-candidate forums. Thomas said he shared common views with the incumbents.

"I worked with all of these people when I was previously on the board," Thomas said. "When you have a lot of board members come up for election, sometimes you will see a lot of candidates trying to take advantage of a hot issue."

Dyche, Fletcher and Straub are calling for more fiscal responsibility within the district. Those candidates' campaign materials also recommend a vote for Tim Blankenship. Blankenship has run more independently, although he appreciates the endorsements.

"I can't agree with everything anyone else says, but we would agree that change is needed," Blankenship said. "I have to be most focused on myself, but I don't mind their support."

Although Blankenship has not made taxes as central an issue in his campaign, he said most people he talked to in the De Soto region are concerned about their taxes.

"That's where I hear the most call for change," Blankenship said. "Nobody wants to jeopardize the education, but there is a small amount of split from east to west on some issues. That's why I want as much community involvement as possible."

Dyche said the reason this election had so many candidates was because of the big issues of the bond issue and boundaries. He said growth in the area means more people want to get involved, but there are still many people who want to see change on the board.

"Those two issues have spurred people's interest the most," Dyche said. "The level of involvement has exploded, and I don't think it's because the board has made bad decisions. I just think people want to get involved."

More community input is a top priority for Blankenship. He said after the recent bond issue failed, he would have asked to hear more from the community. Blankenship said the district needed more community involvement and long-range planning.

"Everyone on the board says the district is good at estimating numbers but they could not predict the huge growth on the west side," Blankenship said. "It seems like there's a disconnect there, but I might not have all the information."

While not an incumbent, Thomas is unique because he has served on the board of education previously. Thomas said although he knew he and the incumbents were very concerned about achievement, he was unsure about the challengers.

"I don't know what their agenda is; it seems to be tax-based," Thomas said. "This is a BOE election, so I think the central issue should be education."

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