All three Madison School Board members up for re-election this spring will run unopposed, continuing a recent trend that even the incumbents lamented.
“I’m a little surprised and a little disappointed,” Dean Loumos said of his lack of an opponent. “I don’t think democracy is served this way, so philosophically, it’s not the best situation.”
Candidate filing ended Tuesday. With this latest batch of seats, six of the last seven School Board races have been uncontested.
Loumos and TJ Mertz are running for second terms. Board President James Howard is running for a third term, his first election without competition.
All terms are for three years. The general election is April 5.
“I appreciate not having an opponent,” said Howard, 62, an economist with the U.S. Forest Service. “But the democratic process is better served when you have an opponent because you have a chance to really vet the issues.”
Howard said this will be his last term. By the time it ends, his youngest of three children, a daughter at East High School, will have graduated.
“I’ve always been a strong advocate of parents on the board,” he said. “It will be time to move over and give someone else the opportunity.”
Loumos, 65, executive director of Housing Initiatives Inc., squeaked through a nail-biter in 2013. He beat retired Madison Police Lt. Wayne Strong by 278 votes, or about 0.76 percent of the total vote.
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“It was a hard race, but it actually helped me,” he said. “I had to learn a lot about the school district, and I had to be much more specific about the things I was saying and the things I wanted to do.”
Loumos said he hopes there still will be candidate forums.
“We should be questioned,” he said. “People should have access to us.”
Mertz, 54, an Edgewood College instructor in history and education, said he’s been thinking a lot about why so many seats go uncontested, then listed several possible reasons.
He theorized that since 2011, when opposition to Gov. Scott Walker’s union policies triggered an unsuccessful recall effort, many people have focused their activism and energies more on state politics and less on local issues. Another possibility: the current School Board members aren’t at each others’ throats.
“When you have a very contentious board, it generates more news coverage and causes people to choose sides,” Mertz said. “With the recent board, we have our disagreements, but there’s not a lot of contention.”
Then there’s the part about sitting through hours and hours of meetings.
“It’s not the most attractive job,” Mertz said. “I’ll admit that.”