In the weeks leading up to Town Meeting Day, a wave of anti-mask mandates and anti-“critical race theory” candidates from across Vermont made bids for school board seats.
But according to results released Tuesday night, many of those candidates failed to beat their opponents at the polls, suggesting Covid-19 school safety rules and equity initiatives have remained broadly popular.
Mask mandates and critical race theory, an academic framework used to understand systemic racism, have become cornerstone issues across the country, including in Vermont.
In Milton, voters rejected a trio of school board challengers who circulated a document criticizing mask mandates and critical race theory, according to unofficial results.
Those candidates – Nichole Delong, Scott O’Brien and Brock Rouse – each garnered about 200 fewer votes than their opponents, according to the results. Officials were still counting “the number of hands and the paperwork,” they said.
Speaker Rick Dooley and newcomers Kumulia Long and Karen Stout were poised to win seats.
Dooley did not respond to a phone call Tuesday night seeking comment.
Prior to the election, Delong, O’Brien and Rouse had released a document affirming their belief in “Americanism not Marxism” and “one nation under God”. The candidates also opposed Milton Schools’ mask mandate.
The three candidates did not respond to email questions ahead of the election and did not immediately respond to an email sent Tuesday evening.
In Arlington, candidate Luke Hall, a former Vermont state trooper who sought to make masks optional in schools and worried about the critical race theory divide, lost to incumbent Nicole Whalen by about 300 votes, according to the results sent by the city clerk.
Hall did not immediately respond to a Facebook post seeking comment.
In the Mill River Unified Union School District, the races were tighter. Mill River School District council candidate Ingrid Lepley lost about 20 votes for a seat, according to results released by the town of Tinmouth.
Lepley was linked to a now-shutdown Etsy site whose merchandise included jewelry designed to feature QAnon conspiracy theory themes. Another Mill River candidate, Kristine Billings, who had expressed concern that critical race theory was “enshrined in the classroom”, fell about 30 votes short of board chairwoman Adrienne Raymond. .
Neither Lepley nor Billings responded to Facebook messages seeking comment.
In St. Albans, Keith Longmore, a Maple Run Unified Union School Board candidate who appeared to be posting right-wing conspiracy theories and offensive memes online, garnered only about half of the votes won by his opponent, Reier Erickson.
In Springfield, voters turned down two board candidates — Katie Parent and Michael Jasinski — who had previously raised concerns about the teaching of critical race theory in schools.
The two were among five candidates for two seats on the board. But in results posted to the City of Springfield’s website Tuesday night, Jasinski and Parent finished last and second-to-last, respectively.
Neither immediately responded to emails seeking comment Tuesday night.
In the Kingdom East School District, Mathew Johnson, a candidate who had denounced the council’s “socialist agendas” and likened mask mandates to child abuse, lost about 120 votes to two opponents for the council seat, the results showed. Johnson did not respond to a Facebook message Tuesday evening.
But contentious topics could feature in at least one other election before the end of the month: the Lake Region Union School District board races. Two other anti-race theory candidates are running in the election, which is scheduled for March 22.
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