Vaughn seeking reelection to Hillsborough school board - for now

She says she might bow out if a candidate emerges she can support ‘100%.’
Hillsborough County School Board member Jessica Vaughn says she is seeking reelection, though her seat is attracting challengers. [IVY CEBALLO | Times (2022)]
Hillsborough County School Board member Jessica Vaughn says she is seeking reelection, though her seat is attracting challengers. [IVY CEBALLO | Times (2022)] [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Sept. 9

Yet another school board race with ideological overtones is developing in the Tampa Bay area, for the seat held by Hillsborough board member Jessica Vaughn.

Vaughn, a Democrat who represents the North Tampa District 3, had said earlier that she likely wouldn’t run for reelection to the seat, citing time demands and difficulties for her family.

Instead, she has now filed to run again and drawn three opponents, including two conservatives who support the “parents rights” movement and one fellow Democrat.

But Vaughn’s decision might not be final.

“I’m running right now,” she said, “But if somebody jumped in the race that I could 100% support, I would re-evaluate whether to run.”

Republican Dalton Gregory Williford filed against Vaughn in January, but recently, parents’ rights advocate Myosha Powell and Bonnie Sue Lambert, a retired veteran of 34 years in education, have also filed for the same seat.

Powell identifies herself on Facebook as a “believer,” “conservative” and “parents’ ally” with seven nieces and nephews and says she hopes “to have a family of my own someday.” She moved to Tampa from New York in 2005 and gave an address in the Lake Magdalene area on filing papers. She could not be reached for comment through emails, calls and text messages.

In a March school board meeting, Powell was one of a parade of speakers who read excerpts with sexual content from school library books, seeking to have them removed or restricted. In recent meetings, she has also spoken angrily against the board’s proclamation for Gay Pride Month, saying gay rights should not be compared to “my history” as a Black woman in fighting discrimination; and called for board member Karen Perez to resign for attending a dinner in Tampa with the Cuban ambassador.

Lambert, a registered Democrat from Temple Terrace, has spent most of her career as a teacher and administrator in Hillsborough schools, including served as a special assistant to former Superintendent Jeff Eakin, and worked briefly as communications director for Clerk of Court Cindy Stuart. She has two grown children who attended Hillsborough schools and has won awards, including a district-wide employee award in Miami-Dade, and a district-wide award for working with volunteers in Hillsborough.

“I was born to run for the school board,” she said. “This my life — everything I know and everything I’ve ever done, working with kids and working in the community.”

She said she filed in part because of Vaughn’s stated intention not to run but will remain in the race. “I’m not running against anyone — I’m running because I’m qualified, hyper-qualified,” she said.

The office and the race are non-partisan, but school board races statewide have become increasingly partisan recently. Gov. Ron DeSantis used campaign money and political influence in 2022 school board races, and Vaughn is one of 14 board members statewide he has announced he will seek to unseat in 2024.