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One romp, one runoff in Hillsborough School Board races

TAMPA — One Hillsborough School Board member was headed for victory and another for a runoff following Tuesday's low-turnout primary.

Susan Valdes sailed toward a second term. All night, she held a comfortable margin over opponent Dave Schmidt in the contest to represent parts of northwest Hillsborough County.

"I've done a good job for the community in my district," said Valdes, 43, who will seek to expand language programs and improve communication in the district in her second term. "I'm just humbled. I really am."

In the countywide race, four-term veteran Carol Kurdell, 63, was headed for a runoff against Stephen Gorham, 29, after a campaign that pitted calls for change against the value of experience.

A third candidate, Jason Mims, 55, failed to receive a significant percentage of the vote.

Both Gorham and Kurdell claimed success in the District 7 results.

"Obviously, I was expecting to win outright, but that's a high hope when you have three people in a race," Kurdell said.

She noted her front-runner status. "That portends for the general (election) that we can win," she said.

But Gorham looked at the votes cast against an incumbent.

"I think it speaks volumes when you look at the percentage of folks who did not choose to vote for the incumbent," he said. "I'm in a very comfortable spot right now on."

To avoid a runoff, one candidate would have needed to receive a majority of the primary vote.

With only two candidates in District 1, there was no question a winner would be picked. Valdes came to the school system as an outsider.

This summer, Valdes drew attention for spending $50,000 of taxpayer money on travel over the past four years, double the amount of other board members.

Schmidt, 59, made the travel an issue in his campaign against Valdes, but that wasn't enough to oust the incumbent from office.

Letitia Stein can be reached at or (813) 226-3400.

One romp, one runoff in Hillsborough School Board races 08/26/08 [Last modified: Sunday, August 31, 2008 3:31pm]
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