Hamilton County Republican voters in Tuesday's primary election opted for older and less strident voices in their Hamilton County Board of Education candidates.
That may mean they want their school board members to keep watch on the ability for parents to be involved in their children's schools and with the books that are part of the curriculum and in the library but not micromanage such decisions.
We're not saying the losing candidates in those primary races did that necessarily, but they were more outspoken than those who ultimately triumphed.
In District 6, for instance, candidate Cindy Fain, 50, who finished second by 47 votes, identified herself as a member of Moms for Liberty, which has looked into curriculum and library book issues across the country. As the mother of a biracial elementary school student, she said her daughter was taught in kindergarten about being a victim and that issues of gender identity were coming up on the playground.
She said parents were worried about the schools becoming toxic, that students and teachers were being bullied and that too much social-emotional learning was replacing study on the basic subjects.
Primary winner Jon Baker, on the other hand, called himself a "doer," an "organizer" and a "bootstrapper" and, as a 74-year-old retiree, said he had "lots of time" to devote to the schools. He offered concrete suggestions for reallocating money, for keeping schools open, for limiting class size, for changing school board meetings and for facilities maintenance. His ideas may not all be adopted, but voters may have appreciated his upbeat attitude.
In District 9, the Hamilton County Commission chose to appoint James Walker over former Central High School principal Gary Kuehn last summer to replace Steve Highlander, who was appointed to the commission, but voters last week reversed the choice and made Kuehn — by more than 350 votes — the Republican nominee in August's general election.
Walker, 55, in a Zoom meeting with the Times Free Press editorial board, said the current board is more ineffective "than any board I've ever been involved" with. "I don't know what we've done."
He also stated that the "system's broken," said we "coddle everybody" and are "afraid to discipline," and added, "I understand the importance of loving them, but we can't save them all."
In endorsing Walker, we hoped he would be the opposite of the administration rubber stamp that defines too many of the members, but voters disagreed.
Instead, they chose Kuehn, 63, who said he "has the time to give," with his "granddaughters as investment," and boasted "a track record of working with parents, teachers and students."
He said he opposed critical race theory and said curriculum and reading materials needed more eyes on them in elementary and middle schools. He is supportive of more counselors and said school safety still is everyone's No. 1 issue.
Though Kuehn is a former school teacher and administrator, we hope he'll prove to be a voice of moderation and common-sense and not always hew the company line.
In District 10, one of two new districts created by the commission after the 2020 census, our choice was longtime disabilities advocate Roddey Coe, 40, who boasted of several other prominent endorsements. But Coe finished a poor third, and voters opted for Faye Robinson, a longtime active member of the Hamilton County Republican Women.
Various supporters described Coe as "direct" and "not afraid to question why things are done a certain way," while some of his critics used less flattering terms to describe his confrontational style.
We thought it might be helpful to have a disabilities advocate on the school board and one who had experience in working with the local legislative delegation on issues, but voters preferred Robinson, with whom we have no quarrel and know by reputation to be an extremely hard worker.
For her part, though many of her answers to the Times Free Press editorial board revolved around "looking at the curriculum" and "scrutiniz[ing] the budget," we appreciate her stated desire that she had a "responsibility to be a part of the solution."
Kuehn, with no opponent in August, will take his place on the board. Robinson will be heavily favored over Jeff Crim, who had no opposition in the Democratic primary, in the heavily Republican district.
However, Baker could have a tough race from Ben Connor, who had no opponent in the Democratic primary. Though Republican primary voters outnumbered Democrats by five to one, the district has been trending younger and leftward, and the Democratic candidate is slightly more than half the Republican candidate's age. Still, anything can happen.
Though we didn't endorse Baker and Robinson in the primary, should they join Kuehn on the board, we hope all three will stand strong for conservative, family values but be well-read, collaborative members.
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