Tierra Jolly defeated opponent Philip Pannell in a sleepy special election Tuesday to fill the Ward 8 seat on the D.C. State Board of Education, according to unofficial results from all 17 precincts posted online late Tuesday.
Jolly, a teacher at a private parochial school in Maryland, had 704 votes to 599 for Pannell, a longtime civic activist. The tally does not include absentee votes.
Jolly had said she wanted to bring an educator’s perspective to the nonpartisan state board, which is responsible for setting citywide academic standards. She benefited from the support of Education Reform Now, a group that promotes charter schools and tenure reform. Jolly said she did not necessarily agree with the group’s principles, but it sent two mailings on her behalf.
Ward 8’s seat on the state board, which exercises little influence over the operation of city schools, has been vacant since Trayon White stepped down in March to take a city job that prevented him from continuing to serve.
The special election cost taxpayers $300,000, as first reported by the Washington City Paper. But it drew scant notice: Fewer than 3 percent of the ward’s 54,000 registered voters showed up at the polls.
In April, the D.C. Board of Elections outlined cheaper options in a letter to Ward 8’s D.C. Council member, Marion Barry (D). A vote-by-mail election would have cost about $162,000, while moving the race to November’s general election ballot would have cost nothing. But Barry and his council colleagues did not take action to choose one of those alternatives.
Three hours after polls opened Tuesday, just 12 people had voted at the Union Temple Baptist Church in Anacostia. Voter No. 13 was roofing contractor Roland Merritt, who said he decided to support Jolly after she knocked on his door to introduce herself. “I felt a good spirit about her,” Merritt said. “She walks around and knocks on doors — she must really want to be the board member.”