Incumbents carry Portland School Board races

  • Mail this page!
  • Delicious
  • 0

PORTLAND — Voters on Tuesday returned all three School Board incumbents to new three-year terms.

Unofficial results showed incumbent School Board Chairwoman Sarah Thompson handily won her fourth term on the board with a 10,187 to 4,234 victory over challenger Paul Okot. Thompson, 45, received more than 70 percent of the vote for the at-large seat.

She said it felt “awesome” to be returning to the board.

“Thanks to all the voters in Portland for allowing me another term to do great work on their behalf,” Thompson said. “I won’t let them down.”

Okot, 27, had not run for public office before this race. He did not return a call for comment by press time.

In District 1, incumbent Jenna Vendil defeated opponent Josephine Okot, 1,482 to 1,023. Vendil received just over 59 percent of the vote for her third term. Josephine Okot, 33, is Paul Okot’s older sister.

Vendil, 31, said she was “grateful for the opportunity to serve the Portland community for another three years.”

Vendil said after “knocking on hundreds of doors” and getting feedback from constituents, the re-election process has given her more “strength and courage to fight for students,” and “guidance for what priorities” the board should have moving forward.

“I’m looking forward to a stronger term,” Vendil said.

Vendil’s victory came after she pleaded guilty to driving to endanger. She had been arrested for allegedly operating under the influence on June 27 in Scarborough, although that charge was eventually dropped. She had pleaded not guilty to operating under the influence on July 29.

Emerson Street resident Wendy Graham said she thought Vendil had campaigned more effectively than Okot, which is why she voted for her.

“(The OUI charge) didn’t matter,” Graham said.

Munjoy Hill resident Margery Niblock, however, thought the charge did matter. She said it was one reason she voted for Okot, but she also said Okot was a worthy candidate.

“Josephine’s family is very active (in the community),” Niblock said. “… I hear she’s terrific, so let’s give her a chance.”

Josephine Okot was not available for comment Tuesday night. This was her second attempt at election to the School Board. She ran unsuccessfully in 2011.

In District 2, incumbent Holly Seeliger, 29, won after running unopposed. She received 2,480 votes to secure her second term.

Turnout was consistent throughout the day, and much higher than it was for the  school budget referendum in June, when fewer than 1,000 people turned out for the city-wide election. Nearly 14,500 residents voted in the at-large School Board race.

At the Reiche Elementary School on 188 Brackett St., election warden Marianne O’Malley Sampson said turnout throughout the day was steady. Shortly after noon, she said there had been more than 850 ballots cast.

“We were very, very busy (Tuesday) morning,” she said.

Denise Shames, the election warden at the Ocean Avenue Community School, said there was a line when polls opened at 8 a.m. Early in the afternoon, she had roughly 720 people had voted, which she said was “pretty good” for an off-year election.

“This is a pretty engaged district,” Shames said.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Sarah ThompsonVendilSeeligerDozens of political signs line the sidewalks outside Portland’s East End Community School on the Eastern Promenade.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or