2019 saw the rise of a local political movement that was unprecedented in recent memory. After the 2017 election that involved four seats on the Colonial School Board the four newly elected members (Jennifer Dow, Eunice Franklin-Becker, Rosemary Northcutt, and Adam Schupack) joined with two existing members (Leslie Finegold and Felix Raimondo) to elect new leadership (Finegold as vice-president and Raimondo as president) and remove the board’s longtime solicitor and replace him with one of their big campaign donors.
While all of that is common when power shifts between political parties, the interesting thing is that everyone involved was a member of the Democratic Party.
The other school board members (Susan Moore, who had been president, Cathy Peduzzi, and Mel Brodsky) felt sidelined by the larger group and repeatedly spoke up how they weren’t included in determining the agenda for the board.
The board majority moved quickly to adopt a “Responsible Contractors” policy, which proponents believe allow for only the most experienced and professional shops to bid thus creating a safe work environment. Opponents believe that through a mechanism involving a specific type of apprentice program, perfectly qualified shops are excluded from the bidding process and raises the cost.
This policy was passed by a 5-4 vote. Northcutt split with the leadership and those she campaigned with and voted with Moore, Pedduzzi, and Brodsky.
In 2019, the seats held by Moore, Pedduzi, Brodsky, Finegold, and Raimondo were up for election. Brodsky announced that he was not going to seek re-election. Moore and Peduzzi joined with a previous member of the school board, Beth Suchsland, and two first time candidates Beth Patruno and Chris Epstein to form the ticket of Protecting Colonial’s Future.
Protecting Colonial’s Future did not seek endorsements or financial assistance from either party (the slate of candidates consisted of four Democrats and one Republican).
The local Democrat machine went into attack mode and sent mailers and made social media posts accusing Protecting Colonial’s Future of being a Republican ploy to confuse voters (even though the Democratic Party had previously endorsed three of the candidates in prior elections).
In the May primary, all five members of Protecting Colonial’s Future advanced to the general election and Susan Moore received the most number of votes overall. In a stunning result, School Board President Felix Raimondo did not advance out of the primary.
In the general election in November, Protecting Colonial’s Future swept the remaining Democratic Party-backed candidates and have since been sworn-in. Moore was elected to be the new president.
Protecting Colonial’s Future’s message of restoring transparency and ethics back to the school board dominated the local political discussion in 2019.
Protecting Colonial’s Future’s successful campaign showed that voters are willing to listen and consider voting for candidates other than a party’s endorsed candidates. More importantly, it showed that candidates can win outside the party system.
For that, we name Protecting Colonial’s Future our Newsmaker of the Year.
Photo: Protecting Colonial’s Future. Left to right – Peduzzi, Epstein, Moore, Patruno, and Suchsland.