The Duval County District 4 School Board race was expected to be a close one, but it quickly became clear Tuesday that voters wanted to keep incumbent Paula Wright in office.
With 53 percent of the votes from the 32 precincts of District 4, Paula Wright will keep her seat as School Board Member.
After months of aggressive campaigning, countless community appearances and posters, it only took about 30 minutes after polls closed for the primary celebrations to begin.
“I’m going to forge ahead with understanding and knowing that I have the community support on behalf of these children,” Wright told a small crowd of supporters just after 7:30 Tuesday.
Wright received about 740 votes more than her challenger Darryl Willie. Over 11,000 voters from District 4 turned out to the polls Tuesday.
“This victory said to the entire city that we know who represents us, and we know quality representation when we see it,” Wright said.
There were a total of six candidates competing for seats on the Duval County School Board Tuesday. The District 2 race attracted the most candidates - Scott Shine, Theresa Graham, Sam Hall and Shannon Russell - but the District 4 race attracted the most attention and strongest feelings.
Unlike the District 2 race, it featured an incumbent. Wright has spent the last four years building a base of support among leaders in the faith community and local politicians in the area. Willie entered the race with support from a younger base and hefty financial backing, significantly more than Wright.
While District 2 holds many of the highest-performing schools in Duval, District 4 has some of the most vulnerable. Along with District 5, it is part of the so-called “transformation region,” and the focus of several privately-funded efforts to boost student achievement.
Willie’s campaign focused on innovation and accountability, proposing a grading system by which constituents can rate their school board member. Incumbent Wright emphasized consistency and community outreach, touting her experience in raising graduations rates and preventing school closures during her tenure.
In the end, it was Wright’s message that resonated with voters.
Fellow school board member and supporter Connie Hall of District 5 was with Wright when the results came in Tuesday night.
“To have that continuity is only going to move us forward,”she said.
Darryl Willie said he was thankful for the widespread community support and the chance to raise important issues.
“It wasn’t ever about me; it’s about kids and raising the questions around education,” he said. “People started to ask the questions and now they’re getting the answers. And I look forward to seeing what Ms. Paula Wright does as she moves forward.”
Wright said the first thing she plans to do is spend the rest of the week getting some much needed rest.
“After that, I’m coming back to the table and we’re going to continue to work on behalf of children and make sure that they have the resources that they need,” she said.
Meanwhile, the District 2 race will continue with a runoff in November.
Scott Shine will face off against either Theresa Graham or Sam Hall, who each have 19 percent of the vote. The close count between Graham and Hall will likely trigger a recount.
You can follow Rhema Thompson on Twitter @RhemaThompson.