Well, I think this is good news for Sioux Falls schools: Dawn Marie Johnson beat Brain Mattson 5,405 votes to 2,226 in yesterday’s Sioux Falls school board election. Over 70% of voters were not fooled by conservative white male Mattson’s specious claim that voters needed to elect him instead of enrolled member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Johnson to increase diversity and inclusion on the 80%-female board (patent horsehockey, since in other public statements, Mattson downplayed diversity and said people should be hired on merit, not any diversity factors). That huge majority of voters also rejected Mattson’s telling endorsement of the costly Hillsdale College social studies standards, his call for gunslingers in schools, and his eagerness to cut educational programs to pay for those gunslingers and weaken public education.
Sioux Falls voter and blogger South Dacola’s Scott Ehrisman took a strangely agnostic position, declaring that Johnson and Mattson appeared “equally qualified“. That seems a curious assessment given that, in response to a question about behavior and mental health issues at a May 4 forum, Johnson spoke of her expertise as a social worker and understanding of four behavioral health programs in the schools while Mattson said kids should exercise more. Johnson spoke of fostering a culture in which every adult in the schools works to stop bullying, while Mattson seemed to shrug, saying bullying has always happened and kids just need to stand up for themselves. Unlike Mattson’s proposal to arm school staff, Johnson offered a more comprehensive response to the question of school safety, referring to her experience developing safety policies for after-school programs, seeking input from police and teachers, and considering the traumatizing effects that safety drills have on kids. Far from demonstrating equal qualification, Mattson at every turn sounded like the typical lazy conservative, trying to answer complicated policy questions with the simplistic Fox News bites he and his fellow entitled white patriarchists regurgitate to each other at morning coffee.
But in bad news for Sioux Falls, over 116,000 voters—over 94% of the registered electorate—didn’t think either Johnson or Mattson was worth voting for. With turnout of a measly 6%, Johnson now takes her seat with the mandate of about 4% of Sioux Falls school district voters.
Johnson does have the mandate of the South Dakota Education Association, which pumped $5,000 into her campaign, just about a quarter of the $21,016 she reported as of of May 11. We’ll see how that donation affects Johnson’s work with the board to negotiate with SDEA members on their contracts next spring. Johnson received cash from various Democratic sources, like the Minnehaha Democratic Forum and Rep. Kadyn Wittman’s campaign fund. But she also received $1,000 from Sioux Falls conservative moneyman Matt Paulson.
Mattson scraped together only $3,361 by May 2 and has reported no supplemental donations. Mattson’s cash included $501 from Minnehaha County GOP chairman and former lawyer R. Shawn Tornow. We won’t get the full picture of who paid for Mattson’s and Johnson’s campaigns for another month, as the Sioux Falls school district requires candidates file final campaign finance reports by June 27.
Johnson will take Cynthia Mickelson’s seat on the Sioux Falls school board July 10.
Related Recounting: Perhaps Mattson should call for a recount. The Sioux Falls school district reports 7,649 voters participated in yesterday’s election but 7,651 ballots counted. And it’s possible more ballots would have been cast and counted if, as Rep. Kadyn Wittman notes on Twitter, rookie Secretary of State Monae Johnson hadn’t been sending out incorrect information about where to vote in Sioux Falls.