Races for seats on the Manatee County School Board proved tight, but four challengers will move forward to the November election.
In District 1, candidates Gina Messenger and Edward Viltz will face off in November, after securing 27.26% and 28.05% of the vote, respectively, with less than 1,000 separating them.
The two beat out Xtavia Bailey (20.72%) and Linda Schaich (23.98%) for a chance to replace Robert Gause, who did not seek reelection after a decade in office.
“I’ve got to give a lot of thanks to all of my volunteers and supporters who got us to this point. We had a bunch of good opponents in this race that really raised the bar,” Viltz said, adding he sees the vote as a reaffirmation of his platform to better use tax dollars; ensure the board works collaboratively; and to improve overall education and graduation rates. “I’m very excited about making it through the primary but now the real work begins. I need to get more voters to support my platform.”
Messenger said she knew the race would be tight because of the quality of candidates, but said her background as a Title 1 teacher is needed on the school board. She said that fact is evident in the success of her grassroots campaign — she raised less than $3,000 compared to Viltz’ $52,700.
“I have a degree in education and that’s what we need from our representatives on our school board — someone who understands a public education,” she said. “I think people are responding to the fact that I’m a genuine and honest person. I’m not in for political gain. I haven’t taken special interest money. We don’t need that on our school board."
For the District 3 seat, incumbent Dave “Watchdog” Miner led in the polls with 46.47%, but the lead was not enough to avoid a runoff election against challenger Misty Servia. Servia’s 37.57% put her ahead of challenger Charlie Conoley, who secured the remaining 15.97% of the vote.
Neither Servia nor Miner could be reach on deadline Tuesday.
School board races require candidates to secure more than 50% of the vote during the primary for an outright victory.
Although each school board seat represents a specific geographic area within the county, each seat is determined by a countywide vote.