Partisan School Board Races Fails in House

Mar 7, 2014

Utah won’t be subjecting state school board candidates to partisan elections this year. House Bill 228, sponsored by Republican Representative Brian Greene, would have done away with the current process of choosing candidates for the ballot in favor of partisan election. The House narrowly voted it down on Friday.

Right now, a seven-member committee appointed by the governor is responsible for recruiting and vetting candidates. The governor then takes the committee’s recommendations and narrows the list down to two candidates for each district.

This method is widely unpopular for many Democrats and Republicans. But in order to change it, state lawmakers must first agree on an alternative. Republican Representative Anderegg supports partisan races because he says that will give voters a better idea of who the candidates are.

“I want to know what they stand for,” Anderegg says. “I want to know what they’re principles are. I want to know what their experience is. I don’t want to walk into the polling booth and look at the name and go heck, I don’t know, this one or that one. And let’s be honest, that is exactly what is happening right now.”

Republican Representative Jim Nielson is running similar legislation himself but in favor of non-partisan elections. He argued against Greene’s bill, using a thinly veiled reference to the Utah Education Association.

“If we legislate to make school boards partisan, we will have a fight on our hands,” Nielson says. “I have been told specifically, this is something that group that supports education that some of us feel is so negative and so unreasonable, I have been told they will go to the matt on this issue and it is not a fight we will win.”

Nielsen’s bill to move to direct non-partisan elections has already passed the full House of Representatives. It’s waiting for a hearing in the Senate Education Committee before moving to the Senate Floor.