TAMPA — As the last votes rolled in during Tuesday’s primary election, one of three races for Hillsborough County School Board — the countywide District 6 — was so close it looked like a recount may be required.
Incumbent April Griffin, running for a third term, was the top vote-getter out of the eight candidates, advancing to the November general election.
Brandon attorney and parent Dipa Shah came in second. But trailing Shah by just 0.53 percent was University of South Florida professor Stacy Hahn.
If two candidates are separated by less than 0.5 percent, a recount is held, said Gerri Kramer with the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Office. As of Tuesday night, no Hillsborough races called for a recount but 6,000 mail ballots remained to be processed.
None of the 14 candidates running in the three nonpartisan school board races secured the necessary 50 percent plus one vote in the primary to be declared a winner. Instead, the top two vote-getters in each race will compete in a runoff Nov. 4.
Griffin, elected in 2006 and re-elected in 2010, decided to run for a third term once school district transportation employees raised concerns about the transportation system. If elected again, she wants to talk about how the superintendent is evaluated, look at the district’s Office of Professional Standards and examine the process tor firing teachers.
“The election turned out how I expected,” Griffin said Tuesday night. “With seven people in the race, a run-off was inevitable.”
Shah, who has a law practice and two children in district schools, has raised the most contributions of all 14 candidates at more than $108,000.
“I think my qualifications, my experience, having children in the schools ... all of those things set me apart quite a bit from April,” Shah said. “She’s done a great job, but I think the votes are showing people are ready for a difference.”
Now out of the District 6 race are Asher Edelson, Alison McGillivray Fernandez, Paula Meckley, Lee Sierra and Randy Toler.
In the District 2 race, which represents south Hillsborough County, parent Michelle Shimberg, who brought in the most votes in her race Tuesday, will take on preschool owner Sally Harris. The seat is being vacated by longtime board member Candy Olson.
Shimberg, a mother of three, was a member of the school district’s Citizen Advisory Council for nearly two decades. She’s served on other boards for local school parent groups and foundations, and has been president of the national Delta Delta Delta sorority.
Harris worked 18 years for the school district as an occupational specialist and counselor before opening the Circle C Ranch Academy preschool. She has five children and two foster daughters. Shimberg and Harris defeated former teacher Michael Weston.
Harris was “overwhelmed, excited, enthusiastic,” Tuesday night as she watched the returns come in with supporters at Tate’s Pizza on West Shore Boulevard.
“I really need to get stronger,” Harris said. “I don’t think I did a good enough job comparing my life experiences against Michelle’s. I’ve run my own business, I’ve been an educator. I’ve been in the trenches.”
In District 4, State Farm insurance agent Melissa Snively, who brought in the most votes, will face conservative religious activist Terry Kemple. Stacy White decided to leave the seat, which represents eastern Hillsborough, to run for county commission. He won Tuesday.
Snively and Kemple beat U.S. Army veteran Dee Prether.
Kemple, who has run unsuccessfully for school board twice before, has said he would push for more parental involvement in schools. A grandfather of three district students, he has led rallies and protests against the new Florida Standards.
Snively has four children who attend Hillsborough public schools, has been involved in PTA and has run her own insurance agency for 13 years. She said teacher evaluators who observe their peers are bringing morale down.
“I’m thrilled with the results and looking forward to a great couple more months of campaigning,” Snively said. “What we’re doing is working.”