By a 61% to 39% vote, Jessica Vaughn defeated Mitch Thrower in the race for the District 3 seat on the Hillsborough County School Board.
This seat represents northern and eastern parts of the county.
While the seat is ostensibly nonpartisan, Hillsborough County Democrats showed enthusiastic support for Vaughn. The differences between the two candidates were stark. While Thrower is considered a moderate, the two potential outcomes represented very different conversations that would take place at the dais.
The race comes at a time when school districts everywhere are struggling with the question of how to keep students safe during a pandemic without negatively impacting their ability to learn — not to mention impact financial troubles caused by the pandemic can have on families with children.
Vaughn is a University of South Florida graduate with a bachelor’s degree in education. After a few years of classroom teaching, she became a substitute teacher so she could balance teaching with raising her son, according to her bio. She lives in Tampa Palms with her husband, son and two dogs, and has been active in Democratic politics, including serving as president of the Tampa Bay Democratic Progressive Caucus.
Thrower outraised Vaughn. He pulled in $86,055 to Vaughn’s $66,942.
The Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association endorsed Vaughn, as did Hillsborough County Commissioners Pat Kemp and Mariella Smith, Tampa City Councilman Luis Viera and the group Our Revolution Tampa Bay. In their endorsement of Vaughn, the Tampa Bay Times praised her for her classroom experience, her plan for improving reading and surgical approach she favors when “assigning teachers according to their strengths.”
Thrower, a certified public accountant who works for the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, served as chair of the Hillsborough County Planning Commission until July, when he resigned after concerns over developer donations to his School Board campaign.
His platform lists financial accountability, school safety and “high quality education for all students.”
His supporters included former Tampa City Councilman Curtis Stokes, former Hillsborough County Planning Commission Director Ray Chiaramonte, entrepreneur Aakash Patel and current School Board Chair Melissa Snively and current School Board Member Cindy Stuart.