The race for a spot on the Bend-La Pine Schools Board of Directors — which is an election that usually flies under the radar — has this year become caught up in national political conversation and allegations of social media harassment.
“I would like to get the conversation focused back on the issues, which is our local school system, and to stop being distracted by negative attack ads and controversy and national partisan politics,” said Carrie McPherson Douglass, an incumbent candidate.
Her opponent, Maria Lopez-Dauenhauer, appeared on The Laura Ingraham Show on Fox News earlier this week, criticizing decisions made by the Oregon Department of Education.
“I hope that our voters demand better and different, so future candidates don’t think that’s a viable strategy,” McPherson Douglass said.
Lopez-Dauenhauer claimed McPherson Douglass attacked her on social media and has filed a formal complaint with Lora Nordquist, interim superintendent for Bend-La Pine Schools.
Lopez-Dauenhauer said she wouldn’t speak to us for this story before hearing back from Nordquist about the complaint.
“I will say that the race is getting heated for sure,” Lopez-Dauenhauer said in an email. “It’s unfortunate, but I’m focused on the campaign priorities and education philosophies.”
And in the race for another seat, some voters are taking issue with a series of anti-Muslim and profanity-laden tweets from several years ago, posted to an account featuring the name and photo of candidate Gregg Henton.
He didn’t respond to a request for an interview, but earlier this week, he told Central Oregon Daily News the accounts were not his.
Soon after the statement, the Twitter accounts were deleted.
Henton’s opponent, Shirley Olson, said she believes some of the candidates running for the board have turned a usually non-partisan race political.
“Let’s just think about what’s happened in the last 18 months, two years, in terms of national politics,” Olson said. “It certainly comes down to local issues. The school board is an important one.”
Oregon State University political science professor Judy Stiegler agrees that it seems like local races are becoming more politicized than ever.
“I think our society is becoming more divided,” Stiegler said. “I think particularly in respect to schools, a lot of folks out in the community realize there’s a lot at stake here.”
Ballots for the special district election are due May 18.
You can read where the candidates stand on the issues – in their own words – on our school board races page.