Education

Incumbents rule in Durham school board races

Incumbents (left to right) Mike Lee, Bettina Umstead, Matt Sears and Natalie Beyer are faring well in the early voting.
Incumbents (left to right) Mike Lee, Bettina Umstead, Matt Sears and Natalie Beyer are faring well in the early voting.

In the hotly contested District 1 school board race, incumbent Mike Lee pulled away from challenger Pebble Lucas to win a second term on the Durham school board.

Lee finished with 56.8 percent of the votes to Lucas' 42.4 percent. The two candidate were separated by 952 votes. Lee received 3,766 of the 6,580 votes cast in the race and Lucas 2,814. There were 52 write-in votes.

"I'm excited about the victory," Lee said. "I believe the board is a great board and we've done some really good work, and I think the community has seen that."

Last week, the District 1 race took an ugly turn with both candidates accusing each other of lying about the performance of the school district.

Lee also said Lucas and her supporters falsely told voters at early voting sites that his children attend privates schools and that he seldom visits schools.

But on Tuesday, Lee said he is ready to forgive and to forget.

"I appreciate Ms. Lucas for her willingness to step forward and run for school board," Lee said. "That takes a lot of courage. I look forward to sitting down with her and talking about her ideas and some of the things she wants to do for the school district and helping her to implement them."

In District 4, the school board's other highly watched race, incumbent Natalie Beyer ran away from challengers Angela Starke and Antonio Jones.

Beyer finished with nearly 54.35 percent of the votes, while Jones finished second with 24.7 percent and Starke 19.6 percent.

"I'm really honored that the voters have chosen me to serve another term," Beyer said. "I've been energized by a lot of great conversations that took place during the campaign and I look forward to sharing ideas from our community as we work to strengthen Durham Public Schools for all."

In District 3, incumbent Matt Sears grabbed 71.8 percent of the votes while challenger Katie Jones received 27.1 percent.

In District 2, incumbent Bettina Umstead, who was appointed to the board in October 2016 to complete the term of former member Sendolo Diaminah after he stepped down in August 2016, ran unopposed.

For the most part, the outcome of the election reflected the endorsements of Durham's influential political action committees and the Durham Association of Educators, which favored the incumbents.

The exception was the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People and the Friends of Durham endorsements of newcomer Jones over two-term board member Beyer in the District 4 race. The Durham People's Alliance and DAE endorsed incumbents in all four district races.

Greg Childress: 919-419-6645, @gchild6645
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