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Write-in candidates tie in New Suffolk school board race

The New Suffolk Common School, seen here on

The New Suffolk Common School, seen here on Dec. 27, 2017. Credit: Randee Daddona

Lauren Grant woke Wednesday morning to a shock.

As she checked the results of Tuesday’s school board vote, Grant saw she was tied in a race she didn’t know she was running.

Grant and Jim Baker were the two write-in candidates for the New Suffolk school district’s election for a school board trustee. Each received eight votes.

“My first thought was, my goodness gracious isn’t this an interesting development?” said Grant, 75.

No one ran for the open seat vacated by Jeanette Cooper, according to school board president Tony Dill.

Grant was part of an advisory group formed last year after the future of a three-room schoolhouse — the district’s only school, which serves about a dozen students — was thrown into question. In January, the school board voted to end instruction at the end of the school year because of the cost of paying a reinstated teacher’s back wages and benefits.

But the district has since reached a settlement with the teacher, keeping the school open in the coming year, Dill said.

Grant guessed her involvement with the advisory group was what prompted residents to nominate her, and that she knew of at least one person who said they were planning to write her in.

She didn’t expect she’d end up on the three-member board.

Baker said Wednesday morning he declined the candidacy and did not comment further.

“Neither of them orchestrated anything to get elected,” Dill said. “They were stunned that people wrote them in at all.”

This isn’t the first time this has happened, Dill said. Cooper’s husband, Jason Cooper, was a write-in candidate in 2012, when he tied with another write-in candidate. Jason Cooper conceded, but he ran for a seat and won in 2015. Cooper filled her husband’s seat on the board when he died unexpectedly last June.

Grant, who could be the de facto victor, said she hasn’t decided whether to accept and would need more time to discuss it with her husband. He was out getting a haircut when she discovered the news.

“I’m very flattered that people have the confidence in me to do this. This might be something I could really sink my teeth into and make a strong contribution, but my husband has no idea,” Grant said around midmorning.

Dill said he isn’t sure what would happen if both Baker and Grant decline the board seat, and that he’d have to consult the school district’s attorney.

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