Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board candidate rebuts rumor he dropped out of the race

·3 min read

Tim Sookram wants Chapel Hill and Carrboro voters to know he’s still on the Nov. 2 ballot for school board.

The News & Observer received an email Thursday evening from Sookram about someone spreading a rumor that he no longer is a candidate in this year’s election.

“This couldn’t be further from the truth,” Sookram said in the email. “My campaign for the Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools Board of Education continues up until Election Day like everyone else’s. I voted yesterday. For me. I’m still on the ballot.”

But he grew worried Thursday after receiving calls from two local Democratic Party officials that someone might be trying to undercut his candidacy for one of three open seats.

The first call was from Lisa Kaylie, vice president of the Democratic Women of Orange County, who had heard he was dropping out, Sookram said. Kaylie told him the local party doesn’t endorse candidates if there are more Democratic candidates than open seats, he said.

The school board race is nonpartisan, so candidates’ party affiliations are not printed on the ballot, but state records show there are four registered Democrats in the race, one unaffiliated voter, and one Republican.

Sookram also got a call from Phyllis Portie-Ascott, the acting chair of the Orange County Democratic Party, asking about the rumor.

Neither woman could tell him who was spreading the rumors, Sookram said.

“I think this kind of dishonesty is supremely jarring because of the nature of the office being sought,” Sookram said. “The folks who win this election will be responsible for ensuring the education, safety, and prosperity of our children. They’ll set an example for our children and be responsible to the community.”

Kaylie and Portie-Ascott told The N&O in interviews Friday that they heard the rumor from poll workers at Democratic Party campaign tables while visiting early-voting sites. They don’t know who started it, the women said, but Kaylie said she wanted to be sure because Sookram had not put out any yard signs or left campaign materials at the polls.

“I tried to explain to him that I was, first of all, just calling as me, as an individual, because I did not know what the situation was, and secondly, I was calling because I do think rules are important, and I do think that nobody should be doing that if he’s still in the race,” Kaylie said.

Sookram, who is running a shoestring campaign, said he didn’t know he could leave campaign materials at the polls. He has not filed any reports with the state Board of Elections, because he isn’t spending more than $1,000 on his campaign — the threshold at which a report must be filed.

Poll workers have been told that no one has dropped out of the race, Portie-Ascott said, and she expects the local party to also send a more formal email with that information.

Orange County’s Democratic Party rarely endorses candidates, but if that decision is made, as it was in this year’s Hillsborough Town Board race, party members first fully discuss the candidates and issues, she said.

“We want to stay neutral and support all of our candidates during a primary or during a nonpartisan election,” Portie-Ascott said.

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