Candidate in heated school board race spends double his competitor -- Gazette.Net


A candidate in the most competitive race for the Montgomery County Board of Education is taking a different approach to campaigning — he is putting in his own money and spending twice the amount of the other.

With one week until the election, Fred Evans has spent $29,743 and Rebecca Smondrowski has spent $12,773, according to campaign reports filed Friday. This does not include $6,000 that Fred Evans donated to his own race and then paid back to himself later.

The two are vying for the District 2 seat on the school board, which is now held by Laura Berthiaume of Rockville, who is not seeking re-election. The district includes the Northwest, Quince Orchard, Thomas S. Wootton and Richard Montgomery areas.

Evans, of Rockville, spent $11,412 since January to pay two part-time staff members — one who made phone calls and the other who served as a campaign adviser, getting paid $1,000 to 1,500 each month since January.

Smondrowski, of Gaithersburg, has not hired any staff and she said she has relied on volunteers.

Evans also spent about $10,000 on designing, purchasing and mailing postcards, while Smondrowski’s postcards and stamps cost about $625.

About one-third of the amount Smondrowski spent, or about $3,000, went to lunches, meetings and the cost of getting to the events.

Evans said he put in $12,225 of his own money because, of all the parts of campaigning, he is least comfortable with asking people for money. He said he hired his campaign adviser, Abraham Saffer, because he needed someone who had that type of experience.

“He had a good reputation, and I think the proof is in the pudding,” he said. “He gave our campaign the focus it needed.”

Smondrowski put $25 into her campaign. She said she spent her money carefully, given that she didn’t have money of her own to throw into the race.

“I was very fortunate that I have enough people who solidly believe in me and have been willing to give up their time and energy,” Smondrowski said. “… I have to think carefully about how I spend every dime of the funds that people are giving me.”

Three seats of seven are open on the school board this year — board member Christopher Barclay of Takoma Park is facing Annita Seckinger of Silver Spring for the District 4 seat and board member Philip Kauffman of Olney faces Morris Panner of Chevy Chase for an at-large seat. Voters are able to vote for someone for all three open seats, regardless of district.

According to their finance reports, Barclay raised $5,000 in the primaries but did not spend any of it; Kauffman raised $7,270 and spent $6,040; Seckinger and Panner both submitted affidavits that stated they did not raise or spend more than $1,000.

Board members, who serve staggered four-year terms, are responsible for overseeing 146,000 students in Montgomery County Public Schools and a more than $2 billion school system budget.

Smondrowski, a 13-year resident of the county, has two children in the school system and has volunteered much of her time in schools and advocating for schools funding through leadership roles on the PTA and other community organizations.

Evans, a 41-year resident of the county, is a retired teacher and principal, and an adjunct education professor. He was most recently principal at Gaithersburg High. He also has a child in the school system. He ran for the County Council in 2010.

In the primary, Evans received 14,429 votes, for 24.8 percent of the vote, and Smondrowski received 13,213 votes, for 22.2 percent of the vote.

Smondrowski raised $18,005 and Evans raised $18,995 from others since January, according to the reports.

Smondrowski received $7,000 from political action committees — $6,000 from MCGEO and $1,000 from SEIU, and Evans received $6,000 from Maryland State Education Association.

Evans received funds from several longtime principals and staff members from the school system, such as Wootton High principal Michael Doran, community superintendent Donna Hollingshead, while much of Smondrowski’s funding came from elected officials in the state, such as delegates Brian Feldman, Charles Barkley and Kirill Reznik. County Executive Isiah Leggett’s wife, Catherine Leggett, donated $250 to Smondrowski.