Rutherford County’s Republican and Democratic parties took opposing stances about partisan school board elections next year.

A recent law allows county political parties to have school board candidates disclose their party affiliations.

Both parties had until last Friday to decide about including school board candidates’ names and affiliations in the primary election to be held May 3, 2022. Previously, these candidates were included only on the August general election ballot.

Rutherford County Democrats voted in “an overwhelming majority” against the decision to allow for party ties to be disclosed, according to a press release from RCDP Chair Cathy Watts.

“These bodies have governed well without the specificity of party affiliation, deftly putting the students’ needs first rather than laying political minefields,” the release said.

The county Republicans announced their decision to support partisan school board elections for both Rutherford County Schools and Murfreesboro City Schools in a social media post last Thursday.

“This means that candidates can declare as an ‘R’ when running for a seat,” the post read.

Candidates not running as Republican may run as Independent but will not be included in May’s primary. Independent candidates will show up only on the Aug. 4 general election ballot.

Both chairs for the local school boards have expressed their opposition to formally introducing partisan politics into the school board election process.

“I think it’s a distraction, largely, and our decisions should not be political,” said RCS Chairwoman Tiffany Johnson, who has served on the board since 2018.

Johnson made her statement in opposition of the partisan elections following the Dec. 9 school board meeting, in which the news of the county political party’s decisions was shared by board member Claire Maxwell.

Johnson’s seat to represent Zone 4 will be on the ballot in the coming election, alongside Zones 1 and 7 held by Tammy Sharp and Jim Estes, respectively. The Zone 3 vacancy that came about as a result of former board member Lisa Moore’s resignation will also be on the ballot.

The Zone 3 seat was temporarily filled by Tim Holden. He has expressed an interest in running to secure a more permanent spot on the board.

MCS Chairman Butch Campbell told the Murfreesboro Post last month that he was “totally against” the potential for partisan school board elections before the county political parties announced their decision.

He was re-elected in 2020.

“I don’t think that we need to involve political parties in school board elections. I was very disappointed in the (law’s) passage. I was not really happy with all of our local delegation,” said Campbell.

MCS has three school board seats up for re-election.

Anyone wanting to run for either school board will need to file a candidate qualifying petition by noon on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, according to an email from Administrator of Elections Alan Farley.

Candidates may pick up their petitions at the Rutherford County Election Commission office at 1 S. Public Square, Suite 103 as early as Monday, Dec. 20.

More information on voting schedules and candidate petitions can be found on the county election commission’s website at https://election.rutherfordcountytn.gov/.

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