by Paul Bowers
S.C. Sen. Robert Ford and S.C. Rep. Wendell Gilliard have announced their endorsements for the Charleston County School District Board of Trustees. With six seats open on the board and five contested, they are endorsing only four candidates: Michael Miller, the Rev. Chris Collins, Mattese Lecque, and Tony Lewis.
Ford and Gilliard, members of the S.C. Legislative Black Caucus, are endorsing the only four black candidates out of the 13 in the running. Kwadjo Campbell, a former Charleston City Council member (and sometime City Paper columnist), designed a flyer to announce Ford and Gilliard's endorsements. Campbell said in a phone interview that the candidates were chosen "so that the African-American community can have some representation on the board."
According to the school district's latest data, the percentage of African-American and white students is very close, while the number of Hispanic students is growing rapidly. Here's the latest headcount data, according to a district spokesperson:
• White: 44.7 percent
• African-American: 44.6 percent
• Hispanic: 7 percent
• Other: 2.3 percent
• Asian: 1.4 percent
Since the resignation of Toya Hampton-Green in August, two out of the eight current school board members are African-American: Collins and Craig Ascue.
The flyer from Ford and Gilliard contains some unusual wording: "You can ONLY vote for those on this Flyer! Don't Vote for any other schoolboard candidate!" Campbell explains the phrasing: "The way they do these school board elections, you have to concentrate your votes. You can vote for more than one person, but we're advising people to only vote for one ... Just vote for those candidates; don't dilute it."
With six seats open on the board (one downtown, two in West Ashley, two in North Charleston, and one to be filled by uncontested board Chairman Chris Fraser), Charleston County voters will get to vote for all six. But in West Ashley, where two seats are open, Ford and Gilliard have endorsed only Michael Miller.