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Voices: Declining a party endorsement in school board elections

When Douglas County Republican Kevin Leung decided to run for a school board position, he was invited to an interview for the endorsement of the county’s Republican Party. Leung declined to participate in an interview, and sent the following letter explaining why.

Dear Douglas County Republican Party Chair, Craig Steiner, and Douglas County Republican School Board Candidate Interview Committee Chair, Dave Gill:

Re: Douglas County School Board Director Candidates Interviews

I would like to thank you for inviting me to an interview with the Douglas County Republicans School Board Candidate Interview Committee. The purpose of the interview, as Chair Gill stated in his email, is that “The Douglas County Republican Party will interview candidates and select those we will endorse.”

My understanding is that the 37-member executive committee, plus the four party officers, will then vote to select who to endorse on August 17. The Douglas County Republicans will then actively campaign to ensure that powerful resources are directed towards winning those particular seats for the endorsed candidates. Since 47 percent of registered voters in Douglas County are Republicans, the party-endorsed candidates can be easily elected in this November election, as the party has shown us in both the 2009 and the 2011 elections.

Unlike a primary election where 100,000 Douglas County Republicans can vote to choose who to represent them, the current process to decide the future school board members is in the hands of only 41 people. Those 41 people were indirectly elected by less than 6,000 Douglas County Republicans who participated in the 2012 Douglas County Republicans Caucus.

I believe that local, non-partisan school board elections should not be drawn into party politics. Decisions and agendas should not become strongly influenced by party ideologies instead of serving the people and the children in our schools.

I believe that the current candidates’ selection process is deeply at flawed. A body, indirectly elected by 6 percent of its members, should not have the final say on who is to represent the entire 100,000 members. Besides, the Douglas County Republican party leadership has openly supported the current school board incumbents and has repeatedly promoted how great they are on its website, Facebook page, and at numerous party gatherings. This selection process is obviously not fair or impartial, and the process is undemocratic and is not exactly transparent. The last thing that we need is to have future school board candidates forced to become active members of the party to have reasonable chances of winning. The resources a party can bring to bear will easily outpace the average person. This will discourage many qualified candidates from running and place an emphasis on party loyalties.

Voters in at Douglas County wish to speak with an official elected by them, 100 percent accountable to them, not to a political party’s executive committee come election time. Therefore, I have to respectably decline your offer for an interview. In this election, I will not solicit or accept any endorsement from a political party or organized labor. I am running to represent the people of Douglas County, not any special interest group in this non-partisan election.

Kevin Leung, 2013 Douglas County School Board candidate

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