Challengers outspend incumbents in IW School Board races

Published 3:53 pm Friday, September 29, 2023

First-time candidates in all three Isle of Wight County School Board races have outspent their incumbent opponents.

Campaign finance reports reflecting donations and expenses through Aug. 31 were due to the Virginia Department of Elections on Sept. 15. 

Brandi Perkins, who’s running against incumbent Denise Tynes for the District 1 seat, reported raising just over $1,700 and spending roughly $815. Tynes, who’s largely self-funding her campaign, reported just over $580 in contributions and roughly $444 in expenses.

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Timothy Mallory, who’s running against incumbent Mark Wooster for the District 2 seat, reported raising just over $3,800 this election cycle, more than triple the $1,202 cash contributions Wooster reported.

The majority of Wooster’s cash, according to his reports, came from a $1,000 donation from his wife, Nancy, who also has made non-monetary contributions totaling just over $1,600 for brochures and yard signs.

Mallory’s reports show a $2,500 contribution from Leonard Bennett, a Newport News attorney specializing in consumer law.

Bennett, a frequent donor to progressive causes, gave $30,000 to Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe in 2021, and $5,000 in 2022 to “Meet our Moment,” a Norfolk-based organization with the stated purpose of recruiting and training Democratic candidates to run for and win state and local elections.

Wooster has reported just over $564 in expenditures to date compared with Mallory’s roughly $2,180. Mallory’s expenses include fees to ActBlue, a fundraising platform for candidates affiliated with the Democratic Party or progressive-leaning organizations.

Both candidates are officially running as independents, though Wooster, when he last ran in 2022, billed himself as the conservative choice in his race against incumbent Renee Dial.

Laequinla Hunter, who’s running against incumbent Jason Maresh for the District 4 seat, declared just over $3,000 in contributions and $2,800 in expenses. Maresh declared just over $2,500 in contributions and $2,000 in expenses. Only three of his donations were itemized, all under $200, one of which came from Maresh himself.

Hunter’s declarations include a $1,000 contribution from Debra Hicks, a Windsor resident and central office employee of neighboring Southampton County Public Schools, and a $1,000 donation from Seven Bambinos Inc. of Newport News. Hunter also reported a non-monetary contribution valued at just over $1,100 from Community Harvest Outreach for printing and mailing over 2,700 flyers.

Community Harvest Outreach, a nonprofit food bank, is governed by a board of directors consisting of Hunter, her husband, Ernest, and Hicks.

According to the Internal Revenue Service’s website, federal law places restrictions on political contributions by section 501(c)(3) nonprofits. Nonpartisan efforts such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives are allowed, but publishing or distributing printed or oral statements “on behalf of, or in opposition to, a candidate for public office” is “strictly forbidden” and may result in an organization losing its tax-exempt status. Community Harvest Outreach is listed as a 501(c)(3) in an IRS database of nonprofits. Hunter did not immediately respond to the Times’ request for comments on the matter.

Hunter, when forming her campaign committee in June, had filed paperwork requesting exemption from filing regular campaign finance reports on grounds that she at the time planned to spend less than $1,000 and not solicit or accept funds from any source other than herself. According to Registrar Lisa Betterton, Hunter rescinded the request in August.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Oct. 2 at 5 p.m. to add information on Community Harvest Outreach, one of Hunter’s donors.