Next Tuesday, March 1, in the primary elections, Alabamians in four state board of education districts will choose who they believe will better serve the children of Alabama.
Four-year terms for state board of education districts 1, 3, 5 and 7 are on the ballot.
Each of the four incumbents has at least one opponent in Tuesday’s primary election.
In Districts 5 and 7, unless an independent candidate chooses to run (and that deadline to declare is March 1), the primary election will determine who wins the seat outright, as no opponents from the other party qualified to run against them in November’s General Election.
The Governor of Alabama serves as the ninth member and President of the State Board of Education.
In an effort to learn more about each candidate’s views and beliefs about education policy, the Alabama School Connection created a nine-question survey, sent to all 13 candidates on February 12. The deadline to return responses was February 24.
A total of seven candidates returned their responses. None of the four incumbents have yet returned their responses. All but two of the nine challengers returned responses.
Though the more-than-50% response rate to the survey is considered good, only hearing from challengers, and not incumbents, caused me to consider what might cause incumbents and challengers to act differently where surveys are concerned.
Dr. Angela K. Lewis, Political Science Program Director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Government, said there is little incentive for a sitting incumbent to respond to a survey.
Lewis explained, saying, “Incumbents are usually safe. Incumbents also have name recognition. Incumbents also have campaign contributions. Despite the fact they have challengers, what incentive would a safe incumbent have for filling out the survey?”
Lewis further suggested that incumbents might actually have a disincentive because an incumbent’s challenger could use the incumbent’s survey responses against them.
Looking at it from the other side, though, Lewis said challengers do have an incentive to complete the survey. “This is free publicity for them,” she said, adding that responding to the survey allows them to get their names in front of people and to let people know their positions.
The Alabama School Connection is continuing to accept candidate responses to the survey even past the deadline, and will work to get any additional responses received posted online before March 1.
Here’s the chart of candidates, the district in which they’re seeking election, their parties, and whether a response was received.
Please note that while Democratic candidates in Districts 1 and 3 do not face challengers in the primary election on Tuesday, in the interest of fairness, both were given an opportunity to complete the survey.
A link is provided if a candidate’s responses were received.
- Adam Bourne (R)
- Carl Myrick (R)
- Jackie Zeigler (R)
- Matthew Brown (R-incumbent)
- Ronald Davis (D) *no challenger in Tuesday’s primary
- Jarralynne Agee (D) *no challenger in Tuesday’s primary
- Justin Barkley (R)
- Stephanie Bell (R-incumbent)
- Ella Bell (D-incumbent)
- Joanne Shum (D)
- Jeff Newman (R-incumbent)
- Jim Bonner (R)
- Rhea Tays Fulmer (R)
Methodology and Timeline for the Survey
Survey questions were created by the Alabama School Connection after reviewing state board of education candidate surveys from state Parent Teacher Associations in other states.
E-mail addresses for candidates were obtained from either state campaign finance forms, the state board of education web site (for incumbents), or from the state party office.
Mailing addresses for candidates were obtained from state campaign finance forms. Two candidates’ mailing addresses could not be found and were requested by email, though neither provided mailing addresses.
The survey was emailed to all candidates on Friday, February 12 around 4:00 p.m. The survey was mailed that same day. A cover letter was provided with instructions and deadlines.
Here’s the cover letter that was sent (mail and email) to the 11 candidates with primary challengers. Here’s the cover letter that was sent (mail and email) to the two candidates with no primary challengers.
The deadline to receive responses was 2:00 p.m. on February 24, though as previously stated, any additional responses received will be published as received, though we cannot guarantee they will be published prior to the March 1 primary.
A reminder email was sent on Wednesday, February 24 at 10:00 a.m. to those candidates for whom responses had not yet been received.