Perkins, Maresh, Wooster wins expand School Board’s conservative majority

Published 10:08 pm Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Isle of Wight County’s School Board has expanded its conservative majority.

Brandi Perkins, who campaigned on the issue of “parental rights” for the Smithfield-centric District 1 School Board seat, ousted incumbent Denise Tynes with 62.8% of more than 3,300 votes to Tynes’ 37.1% according to unofficial election results.

Incumbent Jason Maresh, who along with Perkins had secured the endorsement of the conservative Middle Resolution Political Action Committee, defeated challenger Laequinla Hunter with 73.5% of more than 2,900 votes to Hunter’s 26.4% in their own race for the Windsor-centric District 4 seat.

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Incumbent Mark Wooster defeated challenger Timothy Mallory with 56.1% of more than 2,900 votes to Mallory’s 43.9% in their race for the Carrollton-centric District 2 seat.

Maresh and Wooster, who’d each campaigned as conservative candidates in 2022 against what they termed “divisive” and “sexually explicit” materials in schools, won their seats in last year’s special elections to fill one-year remainder terms of two board members who’d resigned. 

Together with Board Chairman John Collick, who’d campaigned on a similar platform in 2021 with the endorsement of the county’s Republican Party, the trio in February approved a new policy on a 3-2 vote prohibiting elementary and middle school students’ access to explicit materials, followed by another 3-2 vote in March to enact a policy prohibiting educators from teaching students about “systemic racism,” both of which drew opposition from students, teachers and the board’s two Black members – Tynes and District 3 board member Michael Cunningham.

A majority of voters, however, sided with the conservatives on the controversies that have recently gripped the School Board, as well as on Isle of Wight County Schools’ ongoing efforts to resolve a deficit of several hundred thousand dollars from the 2022-23 school year – giving Maresh, Perkins and Wooster their first four-year terms.

Everyone’s congratulations are so appreciated; however, this election was never about me as an individual,” Perkins said. “This was a mandate from the voters, taxpayers, and parents of Isle of Wight for what they want their School Board to be. I thank everyone for their votes and support.”

Tynes did not immediately respond when contacted by The Smithfield Times for comments. Perkins will take her seat in January once Tynes’ term ends Dec. 31.

“I am again humbled by the overwhelming support I’ve had from Isle of Wight’s District 4 voters, especially those that have worked so hard during my last two campaigns,” Maresh said. “I think these results are confirmation that we’re making positive changes in IWCS and moving in the right direction.”

Hunter did not immediately respond when contacted by The Smithfield Times for comments.

I will not concede until the democratic process is complete and every vote is counted that represents the citizens of District 2,” Mallory had told the Times just after 10 p.m. on Nov. 7 when early voting totals had yet to be counted.

The totals now include early in-person votes, election day voting and absentee ballots but not provisional ballots.

Wooster told the Times by phone on Nov. 8 that if his lead holds when provisional votes are counted, “I look forward to the next four years representing my district and hopefully making the school a better place for students, teachers and staff, and striving for excellence in education.”

Wooster also thanked his supporters, and Mallory, for “running a very fair and honest race.”

Isle of Wight County Registrar Lisa Betterton said early in-person voting, which was available from Sept. 22 through Nov. 4, accounted for 3,746 ballots countywide, or just under 12% of the county’s 31,239 registered voters. Absentee ballots accounted for just over 1,300 votes, or 4.1%, of the countywide total.

Early and election-day voting  collectively accounted for just over 66% of the county’s registered voters, indicating that more than 10,000 voters or ⅓ of those registered either didn’t cast a ballot or it hadn’t arrived at the Registrar’s Office by election day.  

Betterton told the Times on Nov. 6 that just over 650 mail-in ballots voters requested hadn’t been returned to her office by that date, citing U.S. Postal Service delays.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 4:21 p.m. on Nov. 8 with the latest vote totals and comments from candidates.