Baird Tops Espenoza in School Contest

(Tuesday, November 7, 2006 11:11 PM EST)
A year ago, Sally Baird was an unknown to the local political establishment.

On Nov. 7, she won an easy victory, if not a landslide, to succeed Mary Hynes on the School Board.

Baird, running with the support of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, defeated independent Cecelia Espenoza by a margin of 60 percent to 39 percent. Baird won 35,677 votes to Espenoza's 23,001 votes (not including absentee ballots, which had not been reported by the Sun Gazette's deadline).

“It's an incredible testament to a great campaign team and grass-roots effort,” Baird said. “I had a lot of people working together all over the county. I'm just excited to get to work to make decisions for the future of all our kids.”

To win a spot in the general election, Baird earlier this year defeated Sharon Davis in the Democratic Party's preference poll. (Under state law, political parties cannot formally nominate School Board members, but can endorse their candidacies.) She then had to defeat Espenoza, who ran for School Board in 2005 and had built up a large group of supporters.

But Espenoza's efforts fell short, as Democrats sided with Baird.

“I was hoping the 30 percent of the population who have no voice in county schools would get a voice, but apparently they will continue to be voiceless,” said Espenoza, apparently referring to non-Democratic county residents.

The seat opened up when School Board Chairman Mary Hynes announced in January that she would not seek a fourth term in office. Hynes' seat was the only one of five School Board slots on the ballot this year. All School Board seats in Arlington are elected countywide.

With her election, Baird becomes the first acknowledged lesbian to serve on a school board in Virginia. That issue was not raised much in the campaign, as Baird and Espenoza focused on fiscal responsibility and higher expectations for students.

County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman, who won re-election Tuesday night and was an early supporter of Baird's bid for School Board, said she would be a good addition.

“I'm very happy for Sally,” Zimmerman said. “I think she is going to be a fine elected official. She is very good at listening and explaining, which bodes well for her service.”

Baird will take office in January.

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