A Republican, Dalton Gregory Williford, has filed to run for the Hillsborough County School board in a district now held by Jessica Vaughn, who has been targeted for defeat by Gov. Ron Desantis.
Williford, echoing DeSantis, advocates for the “parents rights” movement, objecting to what adherents call pornography in schoolbooks.
DeSantis, who used his influence and political campaign money in local races including school boards last year, has named 14 school board members statewide he’ll target for defeat in 2024.
Besides Vaughn in the New Tampa District 3 seat, they include Nadia Combs in Hillsborough and Laura Hine and Eileen Long in Pinellas.
But Vaughn, finishing her first term, said she doesn’t intend to run again, partly because the larger-than-expected time demands are hard on her family — although she added she’s “not 100 percent sure.”
So far no challengers have filed against Combs, Hine or Long.
The office is non-partisan but Williford is a registered Republican involved in rightist groups, while Vaughn is a Democrat.
Williford said his motivation to run didn’t come from DeSantis, but anticipation of his two-year-old daughter’s schooling.
Age 37, he’s a first-time candidate for office with degrees from the University of South Florida and ITT Technical Institute in computer science. He operates technology help and security businesses.
He grew up in a transient military family, but said he came to make his home in the Tampa Bay area about 15 years ago.
Asked about previous involvement in public education, he said he has done volunteer IT work for several schools and colleges.
“I’ve started many businesses,” he said. “Government is not exactly business, but looking at the school system you have a lot of well-meaning people with good ideas who have no idea how to implement them.”
He said “Parents’ rights reign supreme.”
“The law has laid out clearly what is and is not pornography,” and such materials should require parental permission for students to view, he said.
Vaughn’s stated intent not to run again hasn’t stopped Williford from trolling her, including posting a video that he says shows her dozing off in a board meeting while a parent was reading sexually explicit passages from a schoolbook. Vaughn said she was simply looking down at the computer screen embedded in the dais.