Tuesday’s run off races for Oklahoma City Public Schools board of education chair showed that ongoing connections with common people have become the most important aspect to winning local races here.
Outspent, but personally-engaged, Paula Lewis beat opponent Stanley Hupfeld by 700 votes. The final tally was Lewis with 6,152 votes and Hupfeld with 5,455.
“Money can’t compete with connections,” Paula Lewis told Free Press. (See that interview below.)
Opponent Stan Hupfeld raised four times more money from some of the metro’s wealthiest leaders the last campaign finance disclosures showed.
Free Press reported Monday on numbers from the latest campaign finance disclosures to the OKCPS board clerk.
Reports submitted by candidates the week before the run-offs revealed that Hupfeld had raised $105,890 compared to $26,315 raised by Lewis.
Hupfeld’s loss was an expensive one for his supporters that included an OKC metro realtors’ PAC and the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce PAC.
Realtors’ interests were taken up by another group outside the metro, too.
The National Association of Realtors Fund, headquartered in Chicago, ran a series of online targeted ads for Hupfeld. The fund had no direct connection to his campaign.
But the money couldn’t overcome the fact that Lewis is so much a part of the public school fabric of OKCPS.
Supporters praised her connections with workaday people and parents in the neighborhoods of Oklahoma City.
“What she brings in experience and love for individual kids, that is unprecedented,” said Laura Massenat, founder of Elemental Coffee and former OKCPS board member.
Lewis is raising two sons who are attending OKCPS schools and owns high-contact community businesses.
That gives Lewis important connections with parents and school volunteers who actually have a stake in the outcomes of the schools.
Her comments about connections winning out over money are especially significant since her opponent, Stanley Hupfeld, is a longtime favorite of some of Oklahoma City’s wealthiest and most powerful business leaders.
“The idea that big business can come in and save our district has been proven wrong before,” said Massenat.
Massenat runs her own business, but doesn’t believe that all skills translate into public school administration.
“The fact is the district cannot be run like a business,” said Massenat. “It has business aspects. That’s what the administration does. The board has to look at what needs to be done.”
She added, “They don’t need a new CEO.”