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Thursday, April 21, 2011 03:20 pm

‘Indifference’ beat me at the polls

I recently ran for the District 186 School Board and lost by 53 votes in a very close election when 28 percent voted in Springfield. Having read ‘Undercount’ by  James Krohe Jr. [April 14], I can add some insights to the process.

Running for school board was my full-time job for over three months and this was my first attempt at public office. I obtained voting records from the circuit clerk’s office and had the addresses of every registered voter: there were over 10,000 in subdistrict 7. I decided to visit every house at least once, which took me three hours of walking every day for seven week, I lost 15 pounds in the process.

When someone answered the door I politely introduced myself. I think I had four people turn me away. Of the other 800 I spoke with I usually received polite responses and many thanked me for running. Numerous people had no idea which election I was even talking about and many did not think they could even vote because they did not live in the City of Springfield. After assuring them they could vote, the low turnout indicates that the real winner in the election was “indifference.”

The final weekend before the election, with the help of volunteers, we distributed 800 flyers, again reminding frequent voters to vote. I had decided to put everything I had into this election but did not spend money on advertising, although my opponent was able to send out four mailings and likely outspent me by 10 to 1. I had the endorsement of the Springfield Tea Party and the Sangamon County Republicans. A fundraiser generated about $500 and I spent another $1,000 out of my pocket.

My opponent, the incumbent, was endorsed by the State Journal-Register and given funding by unions, including the endorsement of the teacher’s union. Just before the election my opponent announced that the teachers were getting a nice pay raise in this year’s budget.

I lost the final election 51 percent to 49 percent with more than 2,200 votes cast but I do not regret a thing. I do not know if I will try again in two years. It was a lot of work. District 186 now has a budget of over $200 million a year. From what I have learned, the taxpayers will likely see another request to increase the local sales tax and District 186 will need additional funding to pay for the recent salary increases and new hires. The district continues to lose high school students to neighboring communities and the next election will be in 2013.

Jerald F. Jacobs of Springfield describes himself as a “self-unemployed civil engineer and former school board candidate.” Contact him at wonsmallvoice@aol.com.
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