Teachers union buys local school board

A South Sound (WA) school board hopeful has received the biggest donation from the state teachers union's political arm of any candidate in Washington this year.

Olympia School Board candidate Frank Wilson, 42, recently received a $2,500 contribution from a regional chapter of the Washington Education Association's political action committee.

The donation to pay for a Wilson campaign mailer sent to about 14,000 homes comes on top of a prior $350 donation from the group, bringing the total to $2,850.

State law sets a $5,000 limit on how much money local candidates can receive from a single source during the 21 days before an election.

As of Monday, no other candidate in the state had received as much money from the WEA's political action committee this year, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission's Web site.

"That's probably higher than most," Rich Wood, a spokesman for the statewide WEA, said of the $2,500 donation. "Those are decisions that are made locally."

Coming close to Wilson's total are Gov. Chris Gregoire, who has received $2,000, and Amye Bronson-Doherty, a Federal Way School Board candidate who has received $2,200.

Wilson has raised $10,239 during his campaign, meaning the WEA donations make up about 28 percent of his total. He's one of four school board candidates statewide — outside the Seattle School District — to raise more than $10,000.

Wilson is seeking the District 1 seat occupied by Michelle Parvinen. Jeff Nejedly, 44, also is seeking the seat.

Nejedly said he was surprised the local teachers' union didn't endorse his campaign because he considers himself a strong supporter of teachers and once stood on teacher strike picket lines with his father, a former Wisconsin teacher.

The $2,500 donation came after Wilson approached the Olympia Education Association — the local WEA chapter — to ask if the association's regional political committee could help pay for his campaign mailer.

"Frank articulated a need, and we didn't want finances to be a hindrance" to his campaign, David Johnston, the Olympia association's president, said, adding that the move wasn't driven by concerns that the District 1 race is close.

"I don't know how close it is," Johnston said.

However, Nejedly said he suspects the $2,500 donation reflects some concern by local WEA members about how the votes will fall.

"They probably wouldn't do this if it wasn't close," he said. "It could be trying to counter the fact that I've been out there for three to four months connecting with people."

Wilson said he wasn't aware that his WEA contributions were higher than most.

"It makes me really think they believe in what I can offer on the board," he said.

Wilson said he sought the second donation because he wanted to inform voters who regularly cast ballots in school district elections about who has endorsed his campaign.

"I thought a mailer was the best way to get those names out there," said Wilson, who also wasn't sure how tight the race is.


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