BESE runoffs set for Roemer and Songy, Hill and Guillory

Chas Roemer was headed for a runoff Saturday night in his bid for a second term on Louisiana’s top school board in one of seven races that sparked rare, statewide attention.

In the other Baton Rouge area board contest, Carolyn Hill and Jim Guillory led a four-way battle for the District 8 slot on the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, according to unofficial results.

Runoffs are scheduled for Nov. 19, including the Hill-Guillory contest.

Statewide, three candidates backed by Gov. Bobby Jindal won, one was leading but headed for a runoff and one lost.

Jindal, who coasted to re-election on Saturday, is hoping to reshape BESE so he can prevail in the selection of the next superintendent of education and other key school issues in his second term.

BESE sets policies for an estimated 668,000 public school students.

This year’s contests featured campaigns of up to $250,000 for an unpaid job, heated splits over the direction of schools, and unusually heavy interest from Jindal’s team and outside groups.

Roemer, who holds the District 6 slot, was challenged by former Ascension Parish Superintendent Donald Songy, of Prairieville, and former teacher Beth Meyers, of Denham Springs.

With all 389 precincts reporting the results were: Roemer: 59,412, 44.58 percent; Songy: 38,400, 28.81 percent; Meyers: 35,469, 26.61 percent.

Roemer, a businessman, was backed by the Alliance for Better Classrooms, or ABC, which is a self-styled reform group.

The group was financed by Baton Rouge contractor Lane Grigsby and other business leaders and represents one side of the tug-of-war over the direction of public schools.

ABC favors sweeping changes in how schools are funded and promotes school choice, tax credits and tax deductions as needed options for families stuck in failing schools.

Songy was backed by the Coalition for Louisiana Public Education, which represents the other side of the debate.

It includes school board members, superintendents and the state’s two largest teacher unions and generally opposes calls for sweeping changes in public schools.

Coalition members have criticized Jindal’s influence over BESE, charter schools and letter grades for public schools.

Roemer and Meyers are Republicans. Songy is a Democrat.

“I am pleased,” Roemer said late Saturday night. “I suspected that this was where we were going to end up,” he said of the runoff.

But Songy, who will face Roemer next month, said the results show that well over half of voters cast ballots against the incumbent.

“And so I think that bodes well for me,” he said.

District 6 includes much of East Baton Rouge and Ascension parishes as well as Livingston, Tangipahoa and Washington Parishes.

In District 8, four contenders hoped to succeed Linda Johnson, of Plaquemine, who did not seek re-election.

Guillory, who lives in Plaucheville, is a retired businessman and former local school board member.

Hill, who lives in Baton Rouge, is a certified social worker.

The other contenders were Domoine Rutledge, who is general counsel for the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, and Russell Armstrong, a district support coordinator for the state Department of Education.

With 539 of 540 precincts reporting the results were: Rutledge: 24,134, 20.96 percent; Hill: 33,941, 29.48 percent; Armstrong: 24,255, 21.07 percent; Guillory: 32,813, 28.50 percent.

Rutledge, Hill and Armstrong are Democrats. Guillory has no party affiliation.

“I am just thrilled,” Hill said. “I have been crying all night.”

Guillory said he was pleasantly surprise by the results.

“I was hoping I would get in a runoff,” he said.

District 8 includes parts of East Baton Rouge and Ascension parishes as well as West Baton Rouge, West Feliciana, East Feliciana, St. Helena and Avoyelles parishes.

The other races are:

DISTRICT 7: Incumbent Dale Bayard, of Lake Charles, was unable to fend off a challenge by Holly Boffy, of Youngsville.

Both are Republicans.

With 470 of 475 precincts reporting the results were: Boffy: 81,544, 66.57 percent; Bayard: 40,947, 33.43 percent.

Bayard, a financial adviser, was backed by the coalition.

Boffy, who is director of professional development for the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana, was backed by ABC and Jindal.

DISTRICT 3: Incumbent Glenny Lee Buquet, of Houma, was toppled by Lottie Polozola Beebe, of Breaux Bridge.

Buquet is a Democrat and Beebe is a Republican.

With 500 of 508 precincts reporting the results were: Buquet: 53,461, 44.24 percent; Beebe: 67,389, 55.76 percent.

Buquet, a 19-year veteran of BESE, was backed by ABC and Jindal.

Beebe, who is director of human resources for the St. Martin Parish school system, was endorsed by the coalition.

DISTRICT 1: Incumbent Jim Garvey, of Metairie, overcame challenges by Sharon W. Hewitt, of Slidell, and Lee Barrios, of Abita Springs.

Garvey and Hewitt are Republicans. Barrios has no party affiliation.

With all 387 precincts reporting the results were: Garvey: 57,417, 58.28 percent; Hewitt: 29,360, 29.80 percent; Barrios: 11,745, 11.92 percent.

Garvey is a lawyer and backed by Jindal and ABC.

DISTRICT 2: Incumbent Louella Givens, of New Orleans, was challenged by Kira Orange Jones, of New Orleans, Pam Matus, of LaPlace, and Ferdinand Wallace Jr., of Reserve.

With 517 of 524 precincts reporting the results were: Givens: 25,596, 29.72 percent; Orange: 33,960, 39.43 percent; Matus: 14,502, 16.84 percent; Wallace: 12,063, 14.01 percent.

Givens, Jones and Wallace are Democrats. Matus has no party affiliation.

DISTRICT 5: Incumbent Keith Guice, of Monroe, was defeated by Jay Guillot, of Ruston.

With all 828 precincts reporting the results were: Guice: 68,364, 45.38 percent; Guillot: 82,270, 54.62 percent.

Guice is a Democrat. Guillot is a Republican and backed by Jindal and ABC.