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Our view

Our view: Primarily speaking

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Today is the final day — the official day — to vote in the primary elections to narrow the field to the candidates who will face off against each other in November.

Historically, traditionally, the primaries receive less attention and fewer votes than general elections — which may be a big societal mistake.

Primaries are intended to weed out the weaker candidates from both parties and select the most qualified and presentable options.

But primaries often draw only the more enthusiastic voters — who also tend to be more partisan and are likely to prefer candidates who are more partisan and less appealing to the electorate at large. As a result, general election candidates have in recent times been a little less mainstream. To put it gently.

So if you thought you might sit this one out, please reconsider this morning. The more people who vote, the more likely we are to have moderate, reasonable candidates with mainstream appeal in November. In a time like this, when some public officials seem like they were elected in Crazytown, it’s important.

This year’s primaries in Forsyth County include a slew of candidates for U.S. Senate — Sen. Richard Burr fulfilled two terms and, true to his word, declined to run for another — N.C. House of Representatives, county Board of Commissioners, Supreme Court associate justice, Supreme Court appeals judge, clerk of Superior Court and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education: District 1, District 2 and at-large seats.

A lot of attention and roadside signage has been given to the Board of Education, with 10 Republican candidates running for four District 2 seats, five Democratic candidates running for two District 1 seats and 11 candidates running for three at-large seats.

All nine seats are open this year. And with several incumbents choosing not to run, the school board will undergo a significant change.

Current board members who are stepping down include Republicans Dana Caudill Jones and Marilyn Parker as well as Democrats Malishai Woodbury, Andrea Bramer and Elisabeth Motsinger. We’re grateful for their service and dedication and hope those who replace them will follow in their footsteps.

We offer no endorsements for primary elections, but we do offer this general perspective for the school board races:

As COVID-19 continues to fade into the background — we hope — our students face significant challenges. They’ve all suffered the effects of sequestration, remote learning, mask-wearing and social-distancing, which has put them behind academically and socially.

Some candidates have cast aspersions on members of the school board for what they feel were deficient decisions.

But Monday morning quarterbacking is easy. More difficult was making decisions in real time when the short-term severity and long-term consequences of COVID were unknown — and while under pressure from unhappy parents, some of whom were led astray about the severity and risk of COVID by malcontented cable TV personalities.

School board members also had to deal with pressure from teachers, bus drivers and other school employees who at times felt their safety wasn’t being prioritized. And they had to take into consideration students who had special needs and students who belonged to at-risk groups.

On top of COVID, they had to deal with guns and drugs in schools, a deadly school shooting at Mount Tabor High School and the possibility of the kind of activist violence toward school-board members they were witnessing in other areas of the state and country.

But our school board took responsibility and made the hard decisions. Sometimes, members disagreed with each other, but they were all mature enough to accept majority decisions and put aside personal feelings for the sake of the children.

Their main concern was to keep our children safe and alive. For the most part, they followed the reasonable scientific guidelines produced by trustworthy medical officials like now-former state Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen. They established reasonable metrics for when schools should open and close rather than rely on the mood of the moment or the anger pointed their way by irritable parents.

Despite their precautions, some teachers, staff and students contracted the virus.

Whatever considerations voters take with them as they cast their ballots, to punish school board members now for not seeing into the future then would be unfair.


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