We now know all the candidates running for seats on the State Board of Education in 2016.  The primary will be on March 1 and the general election on November 8.

There are eight elected members of this board.  They serve four year staggered so that four seats are up for election every two years.  This year, districts 1, 3, 5 and 7 will be contested.

Longtime incumbent Stephanie Bell is running again in District 3, which extends from north Montgomery to the southside of Birmingham and includes Shelby, Talladega, Chilton, Coosa and Elmore counties.  She will face challenger Justin Barkley in the primary.  Jarralynne Agee is the only Democrat to qualify so she will be on the ballot in November.

Incumbent Jeff Newman is running for his second term in District 7 which covers northwest Alabama and includes parts of both Tuscaloosa and Jefferson counties and goes to Lauderdale County.  He has two Republican challengers in Jim Bonner and Rhea Fulmer.

Ella Bell of Montgomery is running again for District 5.  Geographically this is the largest district in the state, going from Macon County on the east to the Mississippi line on the west and dipping into inner city Mobile.  This seat takes in most of the Black Belt.  Bell is a Democrat and faces Democrat challenger Joanne Shum of Montgomery in the primary.  Shum is a longtime leader of the state HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Pre-School Youngsters) program.

Last summer the governor appointed Matthew Brown of Fairhope to a vacancy in District 1, which includes part of Mobile County and all of Baldwin, Escambia, Conecuh, Covington, Crenshaw and Butler counties.  This appointment baffled many educators as Brown’s only involvement with public schools was to lead an effort to defeat a school tax in Baldwin County last March.

The fact that Brown drew five challengers indicates the unrest with his appointment has not abated.  There are four Republicans vying for this seat and one Democrat.  Republican challengers are Harry Brown, former Daphne mayor; Carl Myrick, former Baldwin County teacher and son of Baldwin County school board member Tony Myrick; Chickasaw city council member Adam Bourne and retried principal Jackie Zeigler of Mobile.  (She is the wife of state auditor Jim Zeigler.)  The lone Democrat is one time Prichard mayor Ron Davis.

I have been around Alabama politics for 40+ years and can never remember this many candidates running for one state board seat.  No doubt this race will create more interest than state board races normally do.

One already interesting development is that the Tea Party folks in Baldwin County went looking for someone to oppose Brown.  They were closely allied with him during the tax vote and were elated at his appointment as they thought he would be opposed to the Alabama College & Career Ready standards.  However, he flipped on them in an effort to obtain campaign funding from the Business Council of Alabama and they don’t appreciate his switch in the least.

Another issue Brown must contend with involves his $72,000 annual salary working for the Baldwin County Commission in their highway department.  The commission has been adamant that he work a full 40 hours per week, yet indications are that he may not be.  For instance, his facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/matthewbrownforeducation/?fref=ts) indicates that he has been traveling widely throughout the district and even says he recently spent two days in Louisville, KY at the national convention of the Future Farmers of America.

Stay tuned.  And get involved.  Find a candidate you believe is committed to supporting our public schools and help them.