KATY (Covering Katy News) – When Katy Independent School District Trustee Rebecca Fox switched from defending her Position 2 seat to attempting to win the Position 1 seat on the school board she made it much more likely that school district super-critic Sean Dolan will be elected in May. That’s because she and candidate Duke Keller are likely to split the pro-district vote and Dolan could gain all of the anti-Katy ISD vote which traditional has been about 35 to 40 percent.
What won’t be known until election day is what the percentage of anti-Katy ISD vote contains people who won’t vote for Dolan under any circumstance?
Fox kept her switch secret by waiting until six minutes before the filing deadline to change the race that she would compete in. There is no difference in political power between being elected to Position 1 or Position 2. The move was purely a political strategy whether you believe Fox or her critics.
Fox claims that she did not want to run against Lance Redmon in the Position 2 race.
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“It will be a distinct benefit to the district to have both Mr. Redmon and me serving on the school board,” she said.
Board Member George Scott says Fox knew she could not beat Redmon and simply wants to be in a three-way race where she can be elected with as little as 34-percent of the vote.
“Mrs. Fox made a calculated decision at the last minute to switch because it was in her best political interest to do so,” Scott said.
While Fox can now win with far fewer votes in a three-way race, she’s also facing a historical fact that the anti-Katy ISD vote is almost always more than 34- percent of the total. That means, in a three-way race, the candidate who is viewed as the most anti-Katy ISD can more easily win a seat on the school board just by putting his or her name on the ballot.
Katy ISD school board races do not have a provision for a runoff election if none of the candidates reach 50 percent of the vote plus one. That means the winner is the person who gets the most votes on election day. In a three-way race the winner could have just 34 percent of the vote.
Perhaps the best example of the strength of the anti-Katy ISD vote can be seen in the 2017 school construction bond election. In that race, former Superintendent Lance Hindt was at the height of his popularity after skillfully leading the district through a flood of biblical proportions. For weeks Hindt crisscrossed the district openly answering questions about the bond. He also made sure the campaign stayed positive and opponents were not labeled as “hating children,” as had been done during previous campaigns.
Hindt convinced every media source that mattered to support the bond. There were no controversial projects for the opposition to focus on. Even still, 34-percent of the public voted against a bond. That result is evidence that the anti-Katy ISD vote can easily gain 34-percent of the vote even when the odds are stacked against them.
Thirty-four percent may be all Dolan would need to win a race where Fox and Keller split the remaining votes.
In 2015 Leonard Ledford and John Pendergraff ran for school board, and against many Katy ISD policies. Both men entered the race late and did not have a deep-rooted campaign. Still, Ledford earned 35-percent of the vote and Pendergraff earned 38-percent in their races againt two popular incumbents.
In 2017 incumbent board member Ashley Vann earned 57-percent of the vote in a three-way race. She did not have another avowed pro-district candidate as a challenger who would take votes from her. The two candidates who ran on change had a total of 42-percent of the vote.
These results indicate that Dolan could be carried to victory simply because about 35 to 40 percent of the voting public traditionally cast ballots for people who are Katy ISD critics. Additionally, Dolan is likely to draw voters to the polls who have never voted before because of his extended high visibility some 12 months before the election. Pendergraff and Ledford were virtually unknown when they ran. They did not have months of coverage provided by Houston TV stations and out of town newspapers that are read by people in Katy and have been over-all pro-Dolan in their approach.
Dolan may run into a gauntlet of voters who will never vote for him and may come to the polls in droves specifically to vote against him, but the move by Fox certainly seems to give him a much better chance of winning when you look at the results of previous elections.