The packed Columbia County school board race Tuesday yielded winners in all three vacant seats, despite a field of 10 candidates that fueled predictions of a runoff.
In District 3, Roxanne Whitaker of Harlem easily defeated her three opponents, gaining 2,504 votes or 63.33 percent. None of her three opponents gained more than 17 percent of the vote.
Ray Hicks defeated Lee Muns in District 5. Mr. Hicks gained 3,278 votes or 51.23 percent with all precincts reporting. Mr. Muns had 3,120 votes or 48.77 percent.
In District 2, Debbi Brooks fended off three challengers, gaining 3,295 votes or 48.57 percent, surpassing the 45 percent required to avoid a runoff. Coming in second was Wayne Bridges, with 2,733 votes or 40.29 percent.
Scott Hinds came in third in the district gaining 480 votes or 7.08 percent. Williford L. Shipes, Jr. gained 276 votes or 4.07 percent. Mrs. Brooks will succeed Beth Trotter, who did not seek re-election.
In District 3, Ms. Whitaker won by a landslide. Randy Newman was in second with 657 votes or 16.62 percent. Richard Hogue was in third with 532 votes or 13.45 percent and Larry Buser finished with 261 votes or 6.6 percent.
The school board election is the final step in the $80 million school system's leadership shift. The past two years have been marred by political squabbles between the sitting board and superintendent Lynn Cadle.
None of the incumbents of the three open seats ran and thus a new majority is assured on the five-person board when the election victors are sworn in Jan. 1.
Superintendent-in-waiting Tom Dohrmann, who was selected by the board in May, is scheduled to assume command Jan. 1, unless Dr. Cadle steps down early as she has discussed.
A problem with the Board of Elections computer software delayed counting of absentee ballots until early today.
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