The race for the Hernando School Board District 5 seat is headed for a recount.
Retired Brooksville educator Cynthia Moore squeaked out an apparent victory over four-term incumbent Sandra Nicholson on Tuesday. But the margin was 41 votes out of 50,573 cast — or 0.08 percent. State law requires a recount when the margin is less than one-half of 1 percent.
"We understand that, but we're all excited up here," Moore, 68, said Tuesday night just after the final returns were posted in the County Commission chambers at the Hernando County Government Center. "I'm confident."
Nicholson, 62, did not return messages Tuesday night.
Supervisor of Elections Annie Williams said she should know today when the recount will begin. The timing depends on whether any statewide races require a recount, Williams said. If not, a recount at the county level should take one day — maybe two — she said.
A Moore victory would block a sweep of the incumbents this year on the School Board. Board members John Sweeney and Dianne Bonfield — both nearing the end of their first terms — defeated their respective challengers in the August primary election.
Nicholson faced three challengers as she fought for a fifth term. Hernando High School teacher Mike Bainum was eliminated during the August primary, sending Nicholson and the 68-year-old Moore to a runoff.
During the campaign, Moore touted her 46 years of experience in the school district as a teacher, administrator and now a volunteer at Brooksville Elementary School. Moore, who also served for a time as president of the local teachers union, criticized Nicholson for being out of touch with the concerns of teachers, students and parents.
Nicholson disputed that, maintaining she has been a responsive board member who works for parents who approach her with issues. She said her past experience as an office manager for a Brooksville engineering firm complemented a board flush with members boasting backgrounds in education. And she said Moore could not match the knowledge of the school district that Nicholson has gleaned after 16 years on the board.
With a dark budget picture in the forecast for next year, Nicholson had expressed a willingness to consider some controversial strategies, such as student activity fees, furloughs and the scaling back of so-called courtesy busing for students who live within 2 miles of school.
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.