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The state school board candidate who won a court order to get his name on this November's ballot only to withdraw from the race has some strong words about the nominating process to explain his actions.
"I felt like I was facing the Politburo," Breck England told me after he announced he was withdrawing from the race and endorsing another candidate.
Describing his interview with the selection committee that narrows the candidates in each district to three, then sends those names to the governor, he compared the process to what is happening in Communist China.
"There are protests going on in Hong Kong because Beijing has a nominating committee that picks the candidates to run for that city's chief executive rather than let the voters decide," he said. "The same thing is going on here."
England, who was rejected by the 12-member nominating committee for ballot consideration in Davis County's District 5, was the first to file a lawsuit against the state's process. He was joined by a second plaintiff, Pat Rusk, who had been rejected by the committee in her bid to run in Salt Lake County's District 6.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups ruled the nominating process was unconstitutional and ordered England and Rusk be placed on the ballot. Later, Joel Wright, who was rejected by the committee for District 9 in Utah County, petitioned the court to have his name included on the ballot and Waddoups granted the request.
England, after going through all the trouble of filing a lawsuit to get on the ballot, withdrew from the race last week. He said he was so far behind in fundraising he didn't think he had a good chance to win. Besides, he said, he has gotten to know the positions of candidate Mark Bouchard and they are similar to his. So he is endorsing Bouchard. The other candidate in that district is Laura Belnap.
England said he filed his complaint in June, shortly after he was rejected by the committee. There were so many delays, which he blamed on attorneys for the state, that the decision to place him on the ballot wasn't made until less than two months before the election. That, he said, was too late to mount an effective campaign.
But he is glad he filed the suit and is proud of the outcome because he believes the process is undemocratic and is weighted to favor candidates who harbor a certain ideology.
He also noted an anti-educator bias among members of the committee.
"The process of getting on the ballot was humiliating," he said. "You walk in and are confronted by political appointees who frown at you from the moment you walk in," he said.
He called several members of the committee "high-handed," who seemed to have an agenda.
They didn't seem interested in discussing philosophies for advancing education, England said. There appeared to be a bias against him from the start.
The makeup of the school board candidate selection committee is dictated by statute. It includes six members from the business community and six from the education community. But one of the education members is from the Charter School community, which, critics say, gives a disadvantage to traditional education advocates.