Burgess: I’m not finished

Dolores Burgess, the Democratic newcomer who unsuccessfully vied for a seat on the Board of Education this year, says that Tuesday’s outcome will not dissuade her from throwing her hat in the ring again next year.

“When I start a project, I see it through,” Burgess said Thursday afternoon.

Burgess, who ran for elected office for her first time this year, suffered an Al Gore-esque defeat this week: While she earned more votes than other candidates who were named to office, state law kept her from gaining a seat on the board.

Burgess earned a total of 22,465 voted in the election, just 622 votes shy of top vote-getter and fellow Democrat Polly Rauh. But despite blowing all the Republicans out of the water (top Republican vote-getter Jerry Pia earned 18,814 votes while Lorraine Olson earned 17,118, and Jonathan Hoch earned 16,173), incumbents Pia and Olson will keep their seats on the board, due to a state law that mandates no more than two-thirds of an elected board be made of members from the same party. Had Burgess been elected, she would have been the seventh Democrat on the Board.

This isn’t the first time this law has kept a popular-vote winner from the board; three years ago, Democrat Bob King, who was defending his seat on the board, out-earned Republican John Leydon on the ballot, but Leydon was added to the school board.

“It happened to Bob King, and then it happened to me. And this ‘minority’ rule has kept both of us off the board, and kept the board all white,” said Burgess, who like King is black.

After King failed to earn a seat on the Board, he faded pretty quietly into the background. He still shows up at Board of Education meetings from time to time, and occasionally takes the podium during the time for public to be heard, but he has not attempted to earn a seat on the board again. Burgess has other plans.

“I’m going to infiltrate. I will do this process again,” she said Thursday. Until then, she promised to be a mainstay at the Board’s meetings.

Maggie Gordon