BRUNSWICK — A record turnout of voters on Nov. 8 elected a former town councilor to replace a two-term incumbent on the School Board by a wide margin.
Ben Tucker, who served on the Town Council from 2008-2013, unseated incumbent Brenda Clough, 1189 to 456, in District 2.
In a tighter race, political newcomer Mandy Merrill defeated former School Board member Byron Watson, 731-636, in District 1.
After voters cast ballots, they had another chance to make their voices heard – by signing a petition for a referendum on creating a public park at town-acquired property at 946 Mere Point Road.
Town Clerk Fran Smith reported that 12,889 voters cast ballots Tuesday – “the biggest turnout we’ve had for a presidential since I’ve been here,” she said, and nearly 800 more than in the 2012 presidential election.
Citing the increasing popularity of absentee voting, Smith said about 1,500 fewer people voted in person than in the 2014 gubernatorial election.
Tucker said Wednesday morning that his and Merrill’s victories were “a strong mandate for having some new faces (on the School Board).”
Both Tucker and Merrill expressed the need to move forward with building a new elementary school.
“From door-knocking, a lot of people seemed to like the fact that I’m for the new school, and I think that’s something (Watson and I) differed on,” Merrill said.
Going forward, Merrill said, “I’m pretty passionate about bullying and making sure that (schools follow) proper procedure,” citing at least seven families she met going door to door who removed their students from town schools because of bullying, and the fact her son has been bullied.
Before the polls closed Tuesday afternoon, Watson said he was relying on his reputation in District 1 to carry him to victory. “I haven’t knocked on one door,” he said, explaining that he didn’t think it was necessary, and that voters were “fed up” with political solicitations.
Watson is not an unfamiliar face in the district, where he served the School Board from 2008-2011 and tried to reclaim his seat in 2010 and 2013.
Following his loss, he said he “gave Mandy a hug, and wished her the best.”
Three incumbent town councilors all ran unopposed Tuesday, when David Watson, Steve Walker, and Jane Millett were re-elected in District 1, 2, and 6, respectively.
Running unopposed, Elizabeth Sokoloff will take over the School Board District 6 seat vacated by longtime member Janet Connors.
Town Councilors and members of the School Board serve three-year terms.
After the Council voted 5-4 in September to sell town-acquired property at 946 Mere Point Road, residents started a petition process to make the property a public park.
However, the town’s attorney informed both the council and petitioners that the petitioners were assuming an improper referendum process, which does not follow a legal procedure under the Town Charter.
Although Preti Flaherty attorney Stephen Langsdorf was prepared to advise the council not to accept the petition as legal, petitioner Sockna Dice told the council Monday night that the group is undeterred.
“We just want the voters to decide directly,” she said at Monday’s meeting.
True to her word, Dice was collecting signatures outside the junior high school for most of Tuesday. She was joined by at least three others throughout the day.
In the span of several minutes Dice was interrupted by two voters who wanted to sign the petition.
On Wednesday morning, Dice said the group had collected over 700 signatures, and is “well on our way to having enough to meet legal requirements.”
Under the legal petition process, the petitioners needed around 900 signatures – 5 percent of registered voters – to submit the petition to the council.
State Rep. Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick, right, snaps a selfie outside the polls at Brunswick Junior High School Nov. 8 with, clockwise, School Board candidate Ben Tucker, Senate District 24 Republican candidate Tristam Coffin, Town Councilor David Watson, School Board candidate Byron Watson, and School Board candidate Mandy Merrill. Merrill’s son is at the center of the group.TuckerMerrillSokoloffWatsonSteve WalkerJane Millett