In the final month of their campaigns, Shelby County School board candidates spent thousands of dollars on signs, mailings and consultants and continued to draw thousands of dollars in new contributions, according to the Shelby County Election Commission.
The race is likely to upend the entire school board with five of the seven seats up for grabs. The election day will be Thursday. Many candidates received money from local business leaders and education advocacy groups.
Chris Caldwell, an incumbent candidate in District 1, and Roshun Austin, a candidate in District 9, continued to lead the fundraising effort, each raising more than $7,000 in July. Each candidate has raised more than $30,000, according to financial disclosures. Caldwell spent more than $13,000 of his coffers on Caissa Public Strategy, a political consulting firm. Austin spent $4,000 at Caissia.
These high-spending candidates were joined by Scott McCormick, a candidate in District 5, who raised more than $21,000 in July, almost all of which came from the same local business leaders who donated to Austin and Caldwell. McCormick gave $8,000 to Sutton Reid, another political consultant.
Freda Garner-Williams, Caldwell’s opponent in District 1, raised just under $3,000, almost all of which came from the Memphis Educators Association, the local teacher’s union. Most of her donations last quarter came from a teacher’s union as well. She has spent her donations on everything from robo-calls to newspaper ads.
Mike Kernell, a candidate in district 9, raised $4,700 in July, almost all of which came from a single donor and a $1,500 personal loan he contributed. His campaign now owes around $3,000 more than remains in his account. He spent most of his money on printing and distributing materials.
Miska Bibbs, who is running unopposed in District 7, raised just under $3,000 in July, with $1,000 coming from the Memphis Chamber of Commerce’s Jobs PAC.
Incumbent Billy Orgel, who is running unopposed in District 8, hasn’t raised any money since the end of April, but has spent around $12,000 on money his campaign had saved up on consulting from Caissa.
Candidates such as Caldwell, McCormick and Austin had many thousands of dollars left to spend in the final days of the campaign, while Garner-Williams and Kernell each had less than a thousand dollars.
Students First, the non-profit education foundation led by Michelle Rhee, and spent thousands of dollars on school board campaigns in 2012, took a lower-key approach to this race, giving $3,000 each to Caldwell, Austin and McCormick.
No new information was provided by the election commission about District 6 incumbent Shante Avant or candidate Stephanie Love in District 3. Damon Morris, a candidate in District 9, reported no new spending or fundraising.
Four candidates told the commission they won’t raise or spend less than $1,000: David Winston, in District 5, Jimmy Warren in District 6, Stephanie Love in District 3 and Anthony Lockhart in District 3.
Teddy King in District 3 remains the only candidate who does not have a single financial disclosure posted on the election commission website. Candidates that do not turn in their forms on time can be subject to fines that start at $25 per day and can go as high as $10,000.
For more information about the race, visit tn.chalkbeat.org/boardelection