Education consultant Susan Thayer and Republican incumbent Tim Stultz have plenty of campaigning to do ahead of their Post 2 runoff July 22.
The winner will face Democrat Kenya Pierre, an attorney, in the Nov. 4 general election. Post 2 includes the Smyrna and Vinings area.
Tuesday’s vote didn’t bode well for Stultz, said John Adams, executive director of Educators First, a teacher advocacy group that endorsed Thayer.
“The fact that roughly two thirds of votes were against the incumbent is a bad sign for him,” Adams said. “If the turnout can be replicated, it’s a big win for Susan.”
Adams called the vote “a referendum on the incumbent,” and predicted Thayer would come out with the win.
Melissa Pike, chairwoman of the Cobb County Democratic Party, believes Pierre has a good chance to win no matter which Republican faces her.
“When everybody votes, Democrats win,” Pike said. “Our job is to get the vote out. If I had my way, it would be Thayer against Kenya. I was not impressed by Tim as our representative.”
While Pike isn’t a Stultz fan, he did receive praise from Cobb School Board Chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci, a Republican who is stepping off the board at year’s end.
“Having worked with Tim Stultz for three-and-a-half years, I have never known him to be anything other than honest, genuine, staunchly conservative and fiscally prudent,” Angelucci said.
Thayer and Stultz have said they plan to take at least some of their campaign signs down for now and put them back up closer to the runoff date.
Stultz is finishing his first term on the school board. He differed from his opponents on such issues as Common Core, a controversial set of national education standards. Stultz opposes Common Core while Thayer has a more neutral stance.
“The state approved (Common Core) and it’s not a local school decision,” she said. “That’s a decision made by the state, and we don’t have an option.”
A year ago, the school board rejected the $7.5 million purchase of math textbooks aligned with Common Core standards. The vote was 4-3, with Stultz voting against the purchase. Thayer said she would have voted for the books, which could have turned the tide.
“I don’t know of any other time in the history of our school system we haven’t approved materials,” she said. “Stultz voted against the math textbooks. That’s something I’m very concerned about. The kids have to have materials.”
Stultz touts his credentials as a conservative and says he has a better chance of beating Pierre than Thayer.
“I would think the incumbent in this district would have a better chance against Pierre,” he said.
Stultz is a Georgia Tech graduate and engineer, while Thayer is a consultant for former Cobb Superintendent James Wilson’s firm Education Planners.
Thayer won 1,876 ballots, or 45 percent, of the vote Tuesday, while Stultz took 1,403 votes, or 34 percent. Jeff Abel, a lending officer for Wells Fargo, took 878 votes, or 21 percent. A runoff is needed because neither candidate received 50 percent of the vote.
Abel has not officially endorsed either candidate.
Thayer also had the most well-funded campaign. Stultz received a total of $2,023 in contributions. His biggest expense was $570, the fee required to qualify for the race. Stultz said Wednesday he had about $1,100 left for the runoff. By contrast, Thayer brought in a $2,500 contribution from the Cobb County Association of Educators and loaned herself $20,000. She hasn’t checked to see how much is left, but says she won’t spend anything close to $20,000 on the race.
“I was told to (make the loan to myself) so I don’t have to worry about expenses as they come in,” she said. “It helps you with signs and mailings but I think people generally will vote their hearts. I’m not sure money will make that much difference.”