When Alva Striplin decided to run for the Leon County School Board, she thought she was running for an open seat.
“I think anyone in Tallahassee would tell you don’t run against an incumbent, you have no chance of winning,” Striplin said.
But the Deer Lake Middle School teacher is staying in the race despite the unexpected entry of incumbent Forrest Van Camp.
At first Van Camp, who’s the current board chair, decided not to run due to health issues.
But when he overcame that problem sooner than expected, he changed his mind.
“I never wanted not to run, but my health my family and my grandchildren come first,” said Van Camp.
By Van Camp’s own description, the school board job includes oversight of Superintendent Jackie Pons.
But less than a month after entering the race, Pons and his wife held a fundraiser for Van Camp collecting about $50,000.
It’s more money than Van Camp says he raised in his two previous school board races combined.
“Having the support of the superintendent doesn’t change my behavior or how I feel or how I act on the board at all,” said Van Camp.
“We need to be talking about education, how to better our schools, we don’t need to be involved in political favors or payback for each other,” Striplin said.
“Always support all of our incumbents and I’ve offered the same type of activity for any one of them,” said Pons.
But Pons’ own attorney Ron Meyer told us it was fair to question that practice.
“If Mr. Van Camp gets elected, I suppose that works out,” Meyer said. “Well if Mr. Van Camp didn’t get elected that mght be awkward, awkward, but not illegal,” he said.
Van Camp has raised about $68,000, Striplin about $19,000 or about a $50,000 difference.
Four other candidates dropped out of this school board race.