Southern Political Report
Gov. Mary Fallin (R-OK) has been rated a shoo-in for months and the race has been on nobody’s “watch” list, until the past several weeks, when voter survey after survey showed her in serious trouble with the Oklahoma electorate. Her favorability rating dropped from 73% last September to 52% in June, a 19-point drop, according to SoonerPoll.com.
Joe Dorman’s Voting Record: http://votesmart.org/candidate/key-votes/46187/joe-dorman#.U-vMr2d0xjo
Moreover, despite being a state legislator with only 35% name ID, Fallin’s Democratic challenger, state Rep. Joe Dorman, is showing up surprisingly strong. In head-to-head polls released in recent weeks, Fallin consistently ran below 50%, a danger sign for incumbents. Fallin led Dorman by 45% to 40% in a Rasmussen Reports poll; 44% to 31%, according to Sooner Survey taken by Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates (R); and led 49% to 40% in a CBS/New York Times poll, Fallin’s best showing, though it pushed “leaners” to make a decision, which may have helped Fallin. Moreover, Dorman’s 35% name ID suggests that as he becomes better known, he has room to improve.
Longtime Oklahoma commentator Mike McCarville says, “Fallin has been going through a pretty rough time,” but points out that Dorman “doesn’t have the base or the money” to defeat her. As of August 8, Dorman had $60,000 in his campaign fund to Fallin’s $1,547,000. Whether Fallin’s recent weakness in the opinion polls will bring money into Dorman’s campaign remains to be seen. He did start television ads last week, focusing on education issues, precisely where Fallin is weak, especially due to her vacillating stance on Common Core standards.
Sooner Poll’s Bill Shapard told the Tulsa World that Fallin’s education agenda, specifically her support for the Common Core education standards, changing to opposition, hurt her with Republicans. Common Core “had problems on the left and the right,” says University of Oklahoma Professor Keith Gaddie, “then somebody on the radio called it “Obamacore,” and that was the end of it.” Says McCarville, “She was for then against Common Core. It confused people.”
In the Republican Primary, the current Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi, who supported Common Core, was defeated by an overwhelming 57% to 21% by a foe of the national standards. Dorman “has been hanging Barresi around [Fallin’s] neck,” says one source. In his first TV ad, Dorman says, “Mary Fallin has flip flopped and failed on education.” In addition, some of her vetoes on education issues have been overridden by the legislature, even though both chambers are more than 70% Republican, suggesting Fallin has problems working with lawmakers even from her own party.
Fallin, however, got good marks in crisis management when tornados ripped the state last year. But in the aftermath, she declined to support building storm shelters in public schools, citing the cost. It’s an issue that Dorman cites on his website.
There is also a feeling that Fallin has no “signature issue,” as one source put it, to point to. While she campaigned on tax cuts and did sign a major tax cut bill, the legislation may not survive a court challenge. She has also been criticized for her opposition to expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, aka, “Obamacare.”
Dorman, who is term-limited this year, has been in the legislature for 11 years and has a reputation for working across party lines. He has been the research director for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee in Washington and also worked with the collegiate mock legislature in Oklahoma, so he has a network of politically-minded young people who may be an asset for him. Despite being a Democrat, he is a member of the National Rifle Association and is pro-life. His most whimsical legislative achievement was to get the watermelon named the state’s official vegetable. It seems the state already had a state fruit, but he wanted to put the spotlight on watermelon, because the annual watermelon festival is held in his district.
The Democratic Party is working to undermine Fallin, filing an ethics complaint claiming that her spokesperson in the governor’s office is working on her campaign on government time, thus at taxpayers’ expense.
The economy is a major plus for Fallin; the state’s jobless rate was only 4.5% in June, compared with a national rate of 6.1%, and a full percentage point lower than the state’s 5.5% in June 2013. Moreover, Oklahoma moved from 31st to 12th among the states in job growth over the past year.
Moreover, Dorman’s party affiliation won’t help him in the nation’s reddest state (Romney received 67% and carried all 77 counties). In one poll, 55% of voters have a “very unfavorable” opinion of President Obama. McCarville says that Dorman “is a capable guy,” but that “throughout his career he has been so aligned with Obama and the East Coast wing of the Democratic Party.”
Despite the shaky poll numbers, Fallin is still the favorite. Said pollster Shapard in the Tulsa World, “I don’t see a scenario where Joe [Dorman] could win.” Says commentator McCarville, Fallin “has plenty of room to recover, and I think she is recovering.”
In any case, there is a race. Stay tuned.
Aug 12 2014 | Posted in General
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Robert G. Holland
Never let it be said that Common Core (CC) entirely lacks educational value.
By exercising even a little of the critical thinking the pushers of these national standards claim to want mandated in all classrooms, consumers can learn a big, valuable lesson about polling that seeks to shape public opinion rather than honestly gauge it.
The one constant in the spate of polls being taken as CC heats up as a political issue is that a sizable portion of the population still knows little or nothing about how these curricular guidelines were developed or what they do. To some prominent pollsters, the knowledge gap is an opening to feed respondents an entirely positive portrayal and then ask them leading questions likely to elicit pro-CC responses.
A recent example was a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll done June 11–15, purporting to find support exceeds opposition to Common Core by almost a 2–1 margin. But first, the pollsters found almost half their participants said they had seen, read, or heard zilch about the national standards. So then WSJ/NBC “educated” them with the following description:
“The Common Core standards are a new set of education standards for English and math that have been set to internationally competitive levels and would be used in every state for students in grades K through 12.”
That is a grossly misleading description. It utterly ignores serious scholarly findings about weaknesses of the math and English standards and their lack of comparability to the best in the world. Furthermore, it fails to acknowledge heavy Obama administration pressure to get states signed up, or the growing number of states now bailing on CC testing and CC itself.
In a June 18 Cato at Liberty blogpost, Cato Institute education analyst Neil McCluskey likened the WSJ/NBC approach to failing to tell people that pufferfish are poisonous, then telling them “pufferfish are delicious and nutritious,” then finally asking, “would you like to eat some pufferfish?”
The first week of May, a survey by Republican pollster John McLaughlin used similar pufferfishy questioning to convert an almost equal split of opinion on CC (35 percent approval, 33 percent disapproval, 32 percent don’t know) to a whopping two-thirds level of support, by feeding respondents what it called a “simple, neutral” description. Again, it was anything but objective. It was CC puffery.
The political takeaway from McLaughlin was that Republicans should beware of opposing Common Core, because national standards will have a big upside with swing voters in the general election. Scribes from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a nominally conservative think tank, then sought to drive home that point with commentary warning Republican candidates that criticizing Common Core is a losing issue.
It would have been reasonable for media reporting on all this to have noted the McLaughlin Poll was commissioned by the Collaborative for Student Success, recipient of heavy funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars both creating Common Core and now purchasing support for it. And Fordham also does PR for the Gates people.
Someone might ask Oklahoma state school superintendent Janet Barresi how much being a red-hot supporter of Common Core in a deep-red state helped her. Despite reportedly putting more than $1 million of her own money into her campaign, she lost in a landslide to CC opponent Joy Hofmeister in the June 24 GOP primary. In fact, Barresi finished third with just 21 percent support.
Here and there, some polls are beginning to reflect the growing anger of citizens over undemocratically imposed nationalized standards they like less the more they find out about them. A little-noted University of Connecticut poll conducted the last week of April found just that: Opposition was highest among people who said they were most highly informed about CC.
Now, one of the polling heavyweights, Rasmussen Reports, has done a straightforward survey (June 21–22), using no leading or trick questions, and finds support for Common Core plummeting among parents with school-age children. Only 34 percent of those parents favor schools nationwide having to meet the so-called Common Core State Standards, a drop of 18 percentage points since a Rasmussen survey last November.
Citizens should closely scrutinize all public-opinion surveys for embedded bias. A critical assessment of the accumulating data indicates a growing proportion of parents who have brought themselves up to speed independently on Common Core—as opposed to being pollster-led—oppose this top-down imposition of shoddy, one-size-fits-all standards and subjective testing on their children.
Robert Holland (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior fellow for education policy with The Heartland Institute.
Governor Fallin today embraced the new Republican nominee for school superintendent, Joy Hofmeister, and said they’ve already started working on an agenda for stronger schools.
Hofmeister was overwhelmingly elected by GOP primary voters over the incumbent Janet Barresi.
This, from Fallin’s campaign website:
Governor Mary Fallin and candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister are working together on an agenda to strengthen Oklahoma public schools and produce better outcomes for Oklahoma students. Mary and Joy know the path forward requires:
- A commitment to producing strong, Oklahoma-based academic standards to replace Common Core
- Supporting our teachers by getting more funding for K-12 education
- Focusing on accountability in spending – additional funds need to go to the classroom!
“Joy Hofmeister is a teacher, small business owner and a mother who cares deeply about public education in Oklahoma, which is why I was proud to appoint her to the Oklahoma State Board of Education. I know Joy will work tirelessly to unite parents, teachers, employers and lawmakers as we work to support and improve our schools. I am proud to support her in her race for superintendent.” – Governor Mary Fallin
“Governor Fallin has always said that improving education is the most important thing we can do to support the long term growth and prosperity of our state. She should be applauded for highlighting the importance of public education, not just in the individual growth of our students, but for Oklahoma’s long term economic well-being. I encourage Oklahomans to get behind Governor Fallin to ensure we have a pro-education governor for the next four years.” – Joy Hofmeister
State Rep. Joe Dorman issued a news release Wednesday evening slamming Gov. Mary Fallin on her education policies and accusing her of considering the appointment of outgoing State Superintendent Janet Barresi as secretary of education.
But Fallin’s spokesman dismissed Dorman’s press release as “baseless and silly,” and he accused the Democratic nominee for governor of starting the rumor about Barresi himself as a way to trump up publicity for his campaign.
“Superintendent Barresi has never asked to be considered nor has she ever been considered for secretary of education,” said Alex Weintz, Fallin’s spokesman. “We actually said that before he put out his press release, so all he would ever have needed to do was pick up the phone and call.”
Robert Sommers, whom Fallin appointed as secretary of education in June 2013, announced Tuesday that he would resign in August.
Dorman, of Rush Springs, said he had heard rumors from multiple sources that Fallin might fill Sommers’ position by tapping Barresi, who came in third in the Republican primary last month in her bid for re-election.
“This is an absolutely bone-chilling idea for Oklahoma’s education system — but, given how Fallin and Barresi share the same regressive education policies, what’s most scary is how plausible it might be,” Dorman said.
“Sommers’ retirement gives Fallin a prime opportunity to reverse the June primary results and to continue the ‘Fal-esi’ plan,” Dorman said. “This means more one-size-fits-all high-stakes tests, more flawed A-F grading for schools and continued overall lack of respect for public education. The voters last month soundly repudiated this agenda, but I fear Fallin didn’t get the message.”
He added, “We cannot continue Fallin and Barresi’s destructive education policies.”
Weintz said the Governor’s Office had no timeline for naming Sommers’ successor
“We would rather have a new secretary of education sooner rather than later, but we also want to have the right secretary of education,” Weintz said. “We want someone who has the ability to bring everyone to the table — teachers, administrators and parents — and someone who is committed to high academic standards and classroom rigor.”
Jul 17 2014 | Posted in General
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Political campaigns are becoming more expensive and that is demonstrated with reported fees paid to a top Republican consulting firm.
According to records filed by candidates in June with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, A.H. Strategies and a sister firm, Majority Designs, has been paid more than $548,267 (see chart) for consulting services, postage, mailing and other related campaign expenses.
That includes some high-profile candidates as customers, including former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon who lost his bid for the U.S. Senate. Oklahoma school superintendent candidate Joy Hofmeister used that firm and won her GOP primary, as did U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, Tulsa County Commissioner John Smaligo and political newcomer Michael Rogers in State House District 98 in Broken Arrow. Fred Jordan, also a client, came in second in the race for Tulsa County District Attorney. (It does not include work the firms performed for Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett in his successful campaign.)
Fount Holland started A.H. Strategies in 1977 in Muskogee. He was press secretary for then-U.S. Rep. Tom Coburn from 1994 to 1997. He was a reporter for the liberal Tulsa World for six years.
Holland and Trebor Worthen are partners in Majority Designs. They have three listed employees, an art director and two associates.
Worthen is a former member of the Oklahoma Legislature and political director of the Oklahoma Republican Party. He was creative director and senior associate at A.H. Strategies.
Karl Ahlgren, a co-founder of A.H. Strategies, now is chief of staff for Mullin. Ahlgren is a former aide to Coburn and a former field director to former U.S. Sen. Don Nickles.
According to a filing with the Federal Election Commission, the campaign of U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin has spent $13,359 with A.H. Strategies in 2014 and thousands more previously. That campaign spent thousands with Majority Designs in 2013.
Mullin also spent $16,135 with Grand Valley Consulting of Alexandria, Virginia, for fundraising consulting in 2014.
In a report filed on March 31, Friends of T.W. Shannon 2014 reported a year-to-date total of $84,583,05 to A.H. Strategies for consulting, postage, print design and other services. They also reported a total of $36,525.88 to Connect Strategic Communications of Atlanta, Georgia, for “voter outreach.” Majority Designs got $15,823 for campaign material plus printing.
The Shannon campaign also paid CLP Consulting of Oklahoma City $14,077 for consulting and CMA Strategies $7,500. Miller Spence Group LLC of Arlington, Virginia got $2,000 for fundrasing consulting. The Shannon campaign reported spending $174,300 with Strategic Media Placement in Delaware for media buys.
The James Lankford campaign for the U.S. Senate paid Harden Global LLC of Alexandria, Virginia, $51,558 for communications consulting and Harris Media of Austin, Texas, $4,500 for advertising. Red Maverick Media LLC of Harrisburg was paid $22,500 for marketing and communications.
Friends of Fred Jordan 2014 reported year-to-date payments of $38,092.81 to Majority Designs. Jordan’s campaign paid A.H. Strategies $28,036.85 for “campaign management.” Jordan also paid $130,000 to Strategic Media Placement, Inc. of Delaware, Ohio.
Acccording to a report filed June 9, Friends of Melissa Abdo spent $22,926.16 with Majority Designs, 4020 N. Lincoln Blvd., #100, Oklahoma City, for mailers/postage.
State Rep. Weldon Watson (Friends of Weldon Watson) on June 9 reported paying Majority Designs $12,599.01 in 2014.
Senate Majority Leader Brian Bingman of Sapulpa paid A.H. Strategies $15,733.58 this year plus $7,128.51 to Majority Designs.
Smaligo paid A.H. Strategies $4,000 this year, as reported on June 9.
Friends of Michael Rogers 2014 reported spending $8,000 with A.H. Strategies for consulting and Majority Designs $7,658.83 for “mail.” His opponent, Terry Cleveland, reported paying Valeska Littlefield $2,000 for consultation.
Hofmeister on June 9 reported spending $16,804.16 (year to date) with Majority Designs. She spent $325,000 with Strategic Media Placement of Delaware, Ohio. On March 31, Hofmeister reported paying A.H. Strategies $44,042 during the year up to that date for consulting fees.
School Superintendent Janet Barresi (Friends of Janet Barresi 2014) paid Anthem Media of Austin, Texas, $1,091,224 for media placement and production. The campaign paid CMA Strategies $26,649 this year for campaign consultation plus Jennifer Carter $37,585 (year to date).
Gov. Mary Fallin (Mary Fallin for Governor 2014) paid CMA Strategies $348,575.58 in a year-to-date figure filed June 9. She also paid Cardinal Insights of Austin, Texas, $10,010 for consulting. Red October Productions of Arnold, Maryland, got paid $49,169.27 for a television shoot in May and Mentzer Media Service, Inc. of Towson, Maryland, was paid $266,950 for media advertising. New Strategies Group of Houston, Texas, was paid $112,003.15 this year for campaign consulting.
And Fallin’s campaign paid Hockaday And Associations LLC of Newport, Rhode Island, $178,857 for online consulting and management.
Fallin’s campaign paid the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation $551 for “research” on May 30.
Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb has paid CMA Strategies of Oklahoma City $8,582.93 for consulting services.
On June 9, (Cliff) Branan for Oklahoma – 2014 reported paying SRCP Media of Alexandria, Virgina, $251,445 for “media buys.” It also paid Seth Rott $4,000 for consulting services.
Some of the payments to A.H. Strategies
Total – $272,429
$84,583 T.W. Shannon (U.S. Senate)
$44,042 Joy Hofmeister (School Superintendent)
$28,036 Fred Jordan (Tulsa County DA)
$25,000 Brian Winslow (Oklahoma City) Senate District 40
$19,912 Jason Smalley (Stroud) Senate District 28
$15,733 Brian Bingman (Sapulpa) Senate District 12
$13,359 Markwayne Mullin (U.S. Congress)
$12,599 Weldon Watson (Tulsa) House District 79
$10,000 Greg Childers (Del City) Senate District 42
$8,000 Michael Rogers (Broken Arrow) House District 98
$7,000 Stephanie Bice (Oklahoma City) Senate District 22
$6,000 A.J. Griffin (Guthrie) Senate District 20
$4,500 Scott Hayes (Elgin) House District 65
$4,165 Frank Simpson (Ardmore) Senate District 14
$4,000 John Smaligo (Tulsa County Commissioner)
$3,000 Judge Sheila A. Condren (Claremore)
$3,000 Angela Marsee (Weatherford) District Attorney
$1,000 Judge Don Andrews (Oklahoma City)
$1,000 John Pfeiffer (Mulhall) House District 38
Some of the payments to Majority Designs
Total – $275,838
$66,671 Brian Winslow (Oklahoma City) Senate District 40
$38,092 Fred Jordan (Tulsa County DA)
$25,786 A.J. Griffin 2014 (Guthrie) Senate District 20
$22,926. Melissa Abdo (Tulsa) House District 69
$16,804 Joy Hofmeister (State School Superintendent)
$15,931 Greg Childers (Del City) Senate District 42
$15,823 T.W. Shannon (U.S. Senate)
$15,521 John Pfeiffer (Mulhall) House District 38
$12,599 Weldon Watson (Tulsa) House District 79
$10,399 Stephanie Bice 2014 (Oklahoma City) Senate District 22
$10,125 Scott Hayes (Elgin) House District 65
$7,128 Brian Bingman (Sapulpa) Senate District 12
$3,921 Judge Don Andrews (Oklahoma City)
$3,112 Angela Marsee 2014 (Weatherford) District Attorney
Total for both companies – $548,267.00
Source: Oklahoma Ethics Commission for year-to-date candidate expenditures for 2014.
Jul 15 2014 | Posted in General
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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman announced the “first phase” of his education program on Thursday.
In doing so, Dorman signaled his intention to tie state Superintendent Janet Barresi around incumbent Gov. Mary Fallin’s neck.
“The ‘Fal-esi’ (which Dorman pronounced ‘fallacy’) plan — the Fallin-Barresi education plan — must be turned around,” Dorman said during a press conference in Tulsa.
Barresi’s aggressive approach to education reform stirred animosity across the political spectrum and put her frequently at odds with the Legislature. Her bid for re-election ended last month with a third-place finish in a Republican primary won outright by former state school board member Joy Hofmeister of Tulsa.
Barresi and Fallin have sought to take the public education system in generally the same direction but have disagreed at times on policy and implementation.
“Much has been said about Mary Fallin and Janet Barresi,” Dorman said. “The two of them combined have initiated changes that have caused what’s happened to our education system.
“Through their radical agenda on education, they have pursued many programs that have harmed the classrooms.”
Dorman specifically cited lack of financial support, high-stakes testing and lack of input from education professionals as shortcomings of the current regime.
Dorman’s proposal, called Classrooms First, would dedicate the state franchise tax — estimated at $35 million — to classroom costs and limit per-pupil state funding cuts.
Dorman said the money from the franchise tax, which now goes into the general fund, could not be spent on administrative salaries or for non-educational purposes.
A term-limited state representative from Rush Springs, Dorman previously proposed using the franchise tax to finance school storm shelters. He still supports the idea of state-financed shelters but said the proposal now being circulated as an initiative petition does not specify a revenue source.
Under Dorman’s Classrooms First proposal, the franchise tax would be distributed as part of the so-called midterm adjustment. Local districts would have some latitude on how the money is spent.
Dorman also emphasized that the winner of November’s gubernatorial election will oversee the adoption of new education standards.
“The governor has the ability to hire and fire the state board of education,” he said. “The governor will determine the education standards. We have to have input from education professionals, parents and other parties invested in education.”
Joy Hofmeister carried all 77 counties in her whopping victory over incumbent Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi, who finished third, and another in Tuesday’s voting.
The Tulsa World has the list of counties and the votes in each: http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/2014_elections/county-by-county-vote-totals-hofmeister-wins-them-all-in/article_75a6c895-e9ce-5f64-8a17-5298b112c194.html
Jun 25 2014 | Posted in General
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The votes have been counted; Primary Election 2014 is history and the dust is settling.
As usual, voters supplied the surprises, handing Congressman James Lankford an impressive, easy win over six others, including former House Speaker T. W Shannon, and pulling the rug from under Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi, who finished third in her three-way race.
While lots of national attention focused on the Lankford-Shannon race, most of the local chatter focused on the Joy Hofmeister victory in the schools superintendent race, and Barresi’s crash. Most had expected a runoff between Hofmeister and Barresi, but few anticipated a clear Hofmeister win and only a few asked if Barresi could possibly finish third behind Hofmeister and Brian Kelly, who didn’t wage much of a campaign.
In that race, and in the Lankford race, there are those who will search for answers: What happened, and why?
In Barresi’s case, it appears a series of decisions, Common Core, A-F, and her own personality conspired to bring her down. Her management style seemed to offend many, but her defenders race to point out she’s simply an aggressive manager who doesn’t suffer fools gladly and believes in her own agenda.
In Lankford’s case, there’s no question the outspoken defense of him by outgoing Senator Tom Coburn over negative commercials was a huge help, especially in northeastern Oklahoma and the Tulsa area.
While Coburn said that he wouldn’t endorse in the Senate primary, he made it clear he would comment on negative advertisements and he did so. He did it twice, once for each candidate. But the tone wasn’t exactly the same, and it was his first comments, on behalf of Lankford, that drew the most attention. Some say Coburn did more than endorse Lankford with his comments. He leveled a blistering attack against the groups supporting Shannon while praising Lankford as one of the “most honest, thoughtful and sincere men I have met in my time in Washington.” By association, some believe, Shannon took a hit as did the superpac backing him.
As surprising as Lankford’s clear, substantial victory was, former Senator Randy Brogdon’s dismal finish was not. Many speculated Brogdon’s heart wasn’t in it and his lackluster campaign showed it. His failure to show even a modicum of competiveness in the race reflects also on those identified as Tea Party supporters in Oklahoma. They frequented social media sites, insisting the polls were wrong and the media was against Brogdon and he’d finish much stronger than indicated. A few even speculated he’d run a close second, not be relegated to a footnote as he is.
In the 5th District race, former Senator Steve Russell and Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas now face each other in a runoff. Russell finished first with Douglas following by about 1,100 votes.
Former House Speaker Todd Hiett won the Corporation Commission race, besting Cliff Branan by about 4.5 percent.
The congressional races, aside from the 5th District, were non-contests with the incumbents winning easily. In the 4th District, Congressman Tom Cole trounced a Tea Party favorite and controversial GOP county chair Anna Flatt, 84.4 to 15.5 percent.
Governor Fallin and Insurance Commissioner John Doak danced to easy victories, blitzing opponents as if they weren’t even there.
GOP turnout was about 264,700, topping the 249,000 total in the 2010 primary turnout; Democrat turnout was pathetic given the party’s previous dominance of Oklahoma politics.
Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi was ousted in today’s voting by challenger Joy Hofmeister, who ran over Barresi and a third candidate to secure the win.
Barresi actually ran third in the three-way race.
|1,638 of 1,956 Precincts Reporting
|JOY HOFMEISTER ✓
|BRIAN S. KELLY
|JANET COSTELLO BARRESI
Jun 24 2014 | Posted in General
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