BRIDGEPORT — New faces. The city school board will have five of them when they are sworn into office in December, according to unofficial election results.
Only one of two incumbents running, John Weldon, won. The other, Howard Gardner, running on the Working Families line, lost to Republican Challenger Chris Taylor by 15 votes.
All three Democrats running for four-year slots were top vote-getters by a two-to-one margin in a nine-candidate field but only two will take office, thanks to the state’s minority party representation law which guaranteed the remaining three seats would go to other parties.
Democrat Jessica Martinez was the top vote getter with 3,483 votes; running mate Hernan Illingworth will return to the board after a two-year absence after receiving 3,342 votes.
Martinez, who has a son in the district, heard the results shortly before midnight and called it a surreal moment.
“I am extremely happy for the children of Bridgeport and the community as a whole,” Martinez said. “I am prepared to work with everyone and move the district forward.”
“Students won,” Illingworth said by text message of his apparent victory.
Joseph Sokolovic, who was cross endorsed by Republicans and the Working Families Party, also won a seat with 1,626 votes, as did incumbent Republican Weldon with 1,487 votes.
Weldon, who came on the board a year ago to fill a vacancy, said he was extraordinarily thankful for the confidence Bridgeport voters placed in him.
“I’m looking forward to working with my board colleagues to move the district forward,” he said.
Sokolovic, who has a son in the school district, said he was also thankful. For the past 18 months, he has attended board meetings as a spectator.
Taylor, who is retired and once ran for mayor, took the last four-year slot. He received 1,143 votes to incumbent Howard Gardner’s 1,128, which would appear to qualify for a recount.
In a separate race to fill a two-year vacancy on the school board, Democrat Sybil Allen easily beat Republican James A. Carbone 3,960 to 1,430.
When joined by three Democratic board members who were not up for re-election, two-thirds of the board remain in Democratic hands but several hold no allegiance to city hall.
To a candidate, however, each newly-elected member has pledged to be in it for the children.
The winners inherit a school district that faces chronic underfunding, low student test scores and such infighting that three members gave up their seats prematurely over the term and others staged a three-month boycott in a failed attempt to get another member to resign.