COVID, Culture Wars Lead to More Write-in Bids for School Boards

Opposition to mask requirements, controversy over state-mandated transgender policies and reports that “critical race theory” was being taught in public schools inspired more than a dozen write-in campaigns for School Board across Virginia this year.

VPAP has identified 13 write-in School Board candidates, most of them in rural communities, who received more than 20 percent of the vote against certified candidates whose names were listed on the ballot. That is more than double the number of write-in candidates in 2017 who hit the 20 percent threshold against certified candidates.

All 13 of the write-in candidates this year were motivated by upheavals in schools brought on by COVID and/or state mandates involving transgender students and teaching a more inclusive history of race. While School Board races are nonpartisan, several of these write-in candidates won the endorsement of the local Republican Party.

One write-in candidate won. Matthew Holbrook, an electrical contractor from Bedford County whose school-age children are home-schooled this year, defeated Bedford County School Board Chairman Jason Johnson.

Locality (District) Write-in Candidate Write-in Votes Amount Spent
Albemarle (Samuel Miller) Randy Zackrisson 26.1% $20,512
Bedford (District 2) Matthew Holbrook (winner) 49.6% $3,340
Botetourt (Amsterdam) Steve Dean 29.7% $2,072
Botetourt (Buchanan) Brandy Campbell 24.4% $2,623
Campbell (Brookneal) Dean Monroe 37.7% $1,148
Campbell (Rustburg) Phillip Stevens 31.6% $0
Halifax (District 6) Sallie Wade Adams 25.9% $3,861
Rappahannock (Piedmont) Lilla Fletcher 32.4% $3,515
Rockbridge (South River) Danny Walker 39.6% $1,999
Rockingham (District 1) Ernest Calhoun 43.4% n/a
Stafford (Falmouth) Scott Hirons 32.8% $6,285
Warren (Fork) Al Gunn 45.7% $803
Wythe (District 5) Pat Eller 28.2% n/a

Note: The list above does not include write-in candidates for seats in which no one qualified for the ballot or races in which an incumbent missed the filing deadline and ran a write-in re-election campaign.

Source: Campaign finance reports filed with Virginia Department of Elections, with spending numbers through November 25. “n/a” indicates VPAP could not find any record that the candidate has filed a statement of organization with the Board of Elections.

Dec. 30, 2021