A candidate for the Howell Public Schools Board of Education who is also a federal employee said he may have to exit the race because county Republicans gave out endorsements in the contest.
That's just the latest reaction to the county GOP's decision to endorse candidates in two local school board races, in Howell and in Pinckney Community Schools.
Under the Hatch Act, federal employees cannot run in partisan races. Jim Pratt, who works for the Federal Aviation Administration, said he has suspended his campaign while he waits for a ruling from the Office of Special Counsel on whether the GOP endorsements mean the campaign has become partisan and he is no longer eligible to run.
Here is a brief summary of the events so far in the school board race.
First, the Concerned Taxpayers Group PAC endorsed John Arthur and Wendy Day due to their fiscal conservatism and answers to the questions. The Concerned Taxpayers Group PAC also endorsed Nora Kessel and Dennis Tierney for Hartland Schools. Following that, Right to Life endorsed Wendy Day and Jim Pratt. The Livingston GOP later endorsed John Arthur and Wendy Day, and also endorsed Marcia Jablonski (although Jablonski’s endorsement wasn’t my resolution).
(Full disclosure – I did not vote for Marcia Jablonski’s endorsement and abstained there for conflict of interest reasons, as the Concerned Taxpayers Group PAC does not support her – and personally, I would not vote for her because of her lack of support to the taxpayers)
As to this article here, I think Jim Pratt has nothing to worry about ethics wise. All the GOP did was to endorse two of its most active members. His party affiliation will not be on the ballot. He can still run this as a nonpartisan race if he chooses to. The Republicans are not actively opposing any candidates and nobody’s party affiliation is on the ballot itself.
So why did we do it? The reasons stated in the article are two of them. This is a 63% Republican County that usually has high turnout in elections. The main exception to high turnout is in school board races. This is despite polls placing education as a top issue to voters year after year. In most years, people have trouble finding out information about school board candidates. I remember one year when I was living in Brighton where we had a 3% turnout for a contested race. That is sad. Another year we had a 9% turnout. Last year with the enhancement millage, it was 25%. A 25% turnout is usually bad, but for a school election, it was great.
Because of the low turnouts, we want to give the voters more information and give them choices to make. We are giving them a service. The job of the Concerned Taxpayers’ Group is to let voters know who the most fiscally responsible candidates are. The job of the Livingston County Republicans is to let voters who are active Republicans. The job of the MEA is to let voters who support the teachers’ union. The Press and Argus’ job is to give readers information. Combined, these should raise the turnout in school board races.
Lastly, the final judge of all of this is the voters. If the voters support us, it will show in the polls. If they oppose us, it will show in the polls. Voters make the final decision. I just hope we don't have one of these 3% turnout races from the good ole boys clubs like we did in the old days.