Group of newcomers beats opponents for Kennewick School Board

Voters on Tuesday night appeared to give the nod to three candidates for the Kennewick School Board who had campaigned together.

Ben Messinger, Brian Brooks and Ron Mabry were edging out their opponents.

Messinger had 5,784 votes, or 53 percent. Kathy White, the board's incumbent legislative representative, had 5,074 votes, or 47 percent.

Brooks, who was appointed after Wendy London left the board this summer to work in Seattle, got 6,140 votes, or 55 percent. Uby Creek, who made her third attempt at a school board seat, got 5,085 votes, or 45 percent.

In a third race, Ron Mabry collected nearly two-thirds of all votes -- 7,032 or 64 percent. He ran practically unopposed, against London, who moved away after the deadline to drop out of the race, which meant she still was on the ballot.

London endorsed Mabry in a letter to the editor last month. She still got 3,897 votes.

Results won't be official until Nov. 29, when the election is certified.

White, a retired teacher who worked in Kennewick schools for 17 years, said she was disappointed to not be re-elected after one term on the board.

The candidates who were leading Tuesday night "shared expenses and did a slick campaign," she said. "It's disappointing."

The names of Brooks, Mabry and Messinger appeared on pamphlets and roadside signs together.

White said it probably hurt her chances that she was out of the state for part of the election season and did not meet as many voters as other candidates did.

Messinger, a financial adviser, said he was feeling pretty confident going into election day.

"I did a lot of door-belling and received a lot of support in talking to people," he said. "I'm happy to see the results. Now the hard work begins."

Brooks, a physical therapist, said the board that likely will contain three newcomers "has some difficult decisions to make right off the bat."

Looming state budget cuts are sure to affect how much money the state sends to school districts.

"There are some tough issues in front of us with the budget," Brooks said.

Brooks thought his success was more based on his campaign platform that on any impression voters may have gotten during his few months on the board since his appointment.

Creek, who works for the Educational Service District 123, said she would always be involved with education, but that she might not run for school board for a fourth time.

"I'm really surprised," she said. "I've shown my consistency, but Kennewick citizens seem to like the way the school board is made up."

Mabry, who is an engineer at Battelle, said a Herald editorial lamenting the thin field of local candidates in part motivated him to run for school board.

"I'd rather help with something instead of just gripe about it," he said.

Mabry said he sees himself at the center of a board that in the past has been deeply divided on issues.

Messinger also said he would not be "anybody's puppet" on the board. He ran as an independent thinker, he said.

"I'll vote my conscience and speak my mind," he said. "I'm not looking to take cues from anybody."

-- Jacques Von Lunen: 582-1402; jvonlunen@tricityherald.com