OKLAHOMA CITY — The current Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education Chair Paula Lewis had two challengers for the district-wide at-large seat in the election ending Tuesday night and now it’s down to one.
Charles Henry, current Board Member representing District 1 in the NW part of the district and Wilfredo Santos-Rivera from the south side were the challengers.
The evening ended with Henry getting the most votes and Lewis coming in second but neither achieved the required 50% vote to win. Those two will meet again in the April 6 general school elections.
The dynamic is expected to change for that election because two other board seats are being contested in April which is expected to increase the turnout.
We reached out to Charles Henry by phone, text, and email but received no response by publication time late in the evening or the next day.
Lewis and Board member Mark Mann both said that they expected the turnout to be low and for the race to go to a runoff.
“I one-hundred percent expected if we had a low turnout election that we would likely go into a runoff,” Lewis told Free Press after the results were in. “Like, I didn’t see any other way around that.”
Mann was matter-of-fact with us about the runoff.
“I suspected with the weather that we had going into the election today that it would just be nip and tuck,” said Mann. “And I mean, I suspected yesterday that there would absolutely be a runoff and this kind of just went along with what I thought it would be.”
We asked Lewis what she intended to do now that she has eight more weeks to campaign.
“We have got to get the message out louder. We have to run our own race,” said Lewis
She said that she will emphasize the good things that have happened “for kids” and acknowledge how hard some aspects of the last few years have been.
First, Pathways to Greatness plan that consolidated schools was a shock and then the pandemic on top of that has made for a last few stressful years.
“And so, there’s a lot of hard things that have happened with our decisions, but I stand by them, and they’re good for kids. And we’re going to see progress,” said Lewis.
The chair of the Board of Education is an at-large seat where all of the other seats are elected by voters within that particular election district within the larger school district.
It was the only school board seat up for election in this primary. The other two seats will be contested on April 6 when the runoff between Lewis and Henry takes place.
The difference in numbers of voters was dramatic.
In 2017 when Free Press covered the general school board election where Lewis was first elected, over 11,000 cast their vote in that election.
Lewis won in 2017 with 6,152 votes and Stanley Hupfeld got 5,455 totaling 11,607.
Even though this was the primary which usually has lower vote counts, Santos-Rivera captured a little over 8% of the vote making it very much a two-way race. Henry had the slightly higher count by the end of Tuesday and got only 2,244 votes. Lewis received 2,042 and Santos-Rivera received 387 to total 4,664.
April 6 elections
On April 6 voters district-wide will be choosing between the incumbent Lewis and current Board District 1 Member Henry for board chair.
In the same election, voters in Board District 1 will be choosing between Brett Lee Hayes and Carole A. Thompson for the seat left open by Henry when he decided to run for chair.
Also, on April 6, voters in Board District 2 will choose between Lori Bowman and James McHenry. Niether are the incumbent. Rebecca Budd, the current District 2 Board member is not running for re-election.
District 7 on the south side is held by Meg McElhaney and she was the only one to file for that seat again and so will continue to hold that seat.
Districts 1 and 2 cover the north side of the district starting with N. 36th street and going north.
District 2 included Nichols Hills and surrounding Oklahoma City. District 1 includes The Village and surrounding Oklahoma City and north almost to Memorial Road.
All seats are four-year terms.
Updated: Wednesday, Feb. 10, and Thursday, Feb. 11, 12:45 p.m.
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