Correction: This story has been corrected to show that there are six candidates for Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board. A previous version of this story omitted Elizabeth Hart-Wells.
Six candidates will now vie for the three open seats on the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board after a candidate dropped out amid a challenge to her ballot petitions.
Scottsdale resident Geraldine Payne turned in 401 signatures, just one more than required to qualify for the ballot, according to the county School Superintendent’s Office.
That slim margin left Payne vulnerable to a challenge and court records show two suits were filed against her petitions on July 20, the deadline for filing challenges.
Rather than fight them, Payne dropped out. Payne did not respond to a request for comment.
With Payne out, six candidates remain in contention for the three open board seats, including Kate Angelos, Julie Cieniawski, Lucy DiGrazia, Elizabeth Hart-Wells, Zachary Lindsay, and Rose Smith.
None of the incumbents – President Allyson Beckham, Barbara Perleberg and Sandy Kravetz – are seeking reelection.
The Payne challenges were filed by board member Jann-Michael Greenburg and resident Laurie Coe.
Greenburg said he challenged the signatures after “a number of concerned citizens” reviewed her petitions and found potential issues. He said they told Payne about them and offered her the opportunity to drop out of the race.
“Unfortunately, Ms. Payne refused to withdraw voluntarily, forcing me to file the election challenge and use precious court time and resources to resolve this matter,” Greenburg said.
Greenburg also called Payne ill-prepared to run, noting that she was unaware that election to the board is a four-year commitment.
“It was clear from the phone calls she had with one of my colleagues that she was not aware or did not have much knowledge about the role of board members or the work it entails, which is always a concern for a sitting board member because it can affect our ability to work effectively and efficiently,” Greenburg said.
Although Greenburg and Coe are connected to the local Democratic party and Payne was supported by local Republicans, Greenburg denied he filed for political reasons. Coe did not respond to a request for comment.
Payne was one of the three candidates supported by the local LD23 Republican Party, according to a recent newsletter.
“A special thank you to all of you who collected signatures for our Scottsdale school board candidates,” wrote Chairman Nancy Ordowski in LD23 GOP’s June newsletter. “Kate Angelos and Lucy DiGrazia have their signatures for sure. A few more days to know about Geri Payne’s signatures.”
Ordowski did not respond to a request for comment.
Greenburg and Coe are both Democrats.
Greenburg is a precinct captain for the LD23 Democratic party.
Coe is also active in party politics, and is mentioned in news reports from 2018 after she filed a complaint that led to a Congressional ethics investigation into Rep. David Schweikert, who represents parts of Scottsdale and surrounding cities.
Greenburg said the group that reviewed Payne’s signatures prior to his challenge was nonpartisan.
“It was me and a handful of SUSD parents, etc. who did this, so we were not affiliated with any specific political purpose group,” he said.
Greenburg acknowledged that he disagrees with the views of the other two Republican-supported candidates but said he did not know much about Payne’s political background.