Anthony Anderson loses Martin County School Board to Amy Pritchett, Jennifer Russell takes District 3 – TCPalm

MARTIN COUNTY — Voters Tuesday selected two conservative-leaning political newcomers to fill two seats on the School Board – rejecting a familiar incumbent and a trained accountant.
Local Moms for Liberty co-chair Amy Pritchett, 66, of Stuart, beat Port Salerno resident Anthony “Tony” Anderson, 65, in his District 4 reelection bid, while Jennifer Russell, of Hobe Sound, won the School Board’s open District 3 seat over rival Elizabeth Bernstein, of Tequesta.
District 3 incumbent Victoria Defenthaler opted not to seek a second term.
Pritchett’s race was endorsed by Moms for Liberty, a conservative parental-rights advocacy group, and Russell was one of several School Board candidates across the state endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Unofficial election results in the nonpartisan races show Pritchett garnered a winning 50.48% of ballots cast over Anderson, who received 49.52% of the vote. Pritchett won by 337 votes.
Reached Tuesday night, Pritchett said her win “feels really good.”
“I really had a lot of grassroots support. I didn’t have the fanfare of some of the other candidates,” she said. “I just had hard working people who believed in me.”
She called her win over Anderson “a vote for the people.”
“I think the people spoke and they are very concerned and want our schools to be better. We want reading proficiency to be up from the 53% that it’s at,” she said. “And we want core curriculum and that’s what I ran on. And the people agreed with me.”
Russell, 38, won with 56.26% of the vote, compared to Bernstein, 37, who got 43.74%.
Elections hub: TCPalm’s complete coverage of the Aug. 23 primary
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Both Russell and Pritchett’s campaigns were aligned with conservative political talking points that have permeated School Board discussions since the COVID-19 pandemic — advocating for parental rights, as well as opposing mask mandates and discussion of gender identity and critical race theory, a college-level academic theory, in classrooms.  
These ideas, and parental rights advocates such as Moms for Liberty, have influenced statewide legislation, including the “Parental Rights in Education Act” and the “Stop WOKE Act,” which limit discussion of gender identity, sexuality and race in classrooms.
On the campaign trail, Pritchett touted that “every parent has the right to make education and health decisions for their children,” and showed a commitment to academic excellence, student empowerment and parent collaboration.
County election data shows Districts 3 and 4 have about twice as many registered Republicans as Democrats — around 12,000 Republicans each — which played in favor to Pritchett and Russell’s campaigns, as they leaned conservative.
Russell, who campaigned with the message “today’s children will shape tomorrow’s future,” also lauded “maintaining excellent schools, protecting parental rights in education, advocating for school choice,” and supporting teachers.
An elated Russell expressed gratitude Tuesday night and acknowledged her supporters who helped her win by 4,558 votes.
“You know, you work hard and you hope for the best. And you don’t know until the results come out,” she said. “I am deeply grateful to the voters of Martin County. I just want to say thank you to everyone who took the time to speak with me on the campaign trail and get to know me and what I was about.”
She looks forward, she said, to advocating for students, parents and teachers.
“My highest priority was going to be focusing on ensuring that our students receive an excellent education,” Russell said. “That is what I am about, and I want to make sure that I honor the people that voted for me. I know I work for the people and I will work hard.”
And it didn’t much matter that Bernstein and Anderson – both natives of Martin County – outraised and outspent their winning rivals by thousands of dollars, according to county election finance reports.
In the District 3 race, Bernstein, a wellness instructor at her business Soulful Elephant Yoga, raised $64,457 – the most cash collected in any of the Martin County School Board races. She was an economist at the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis before returning to Martin County in 2019.
Russell, a first-time candidate who moved to Hobe Sound last year and former assistant administrator at an early-learning Christian school in Virginia, reported raising $47,065, election records show.
In Pritchett’s case, Anderson’s campaign cash haul of $29,620 nearly doubled her take of $14,056.
Pritchett, too, is relatively new to Martin County, after moving here in 2016. 
She successfully campaigned with the message “every parent has the right to make education and health decisions for their children,” and lauded academic excellence, student empowerment, parent collaboration and stakeholder engagement.
Anderson, a local middle school teacher of more than 20 years, is a well-established name in the county, despite his loss — his brother, Dr. David Anderson, served on the School Board for a historic 32 years.
He initially said he didn’t plan to seek another term after how contentious School Board politics became during the pandemic. But community members encouraged Anderson to give it another shot, he said, to challenge the rising wave of opposition.
After spending $29,130, he spent nearly as much campaign cash as he raised, county election finance records show.
He also had backing from some local elected officials, including Stuart City Commissioner Michael Meier, who donated $450, and Stephen Fry, former Martin County attorney, who donated $1,000. Anderson/s campaign was partly self-funded with a $2,000 loan to himself.
He garnered support from some unions and political action committees; his campaign received a $500 donation from the local American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees and $1,500 from Florida Realtors PAC.
Election reports show Pritchett, who initially loaned her campaign $1,500, spent $13,319 – the least of any candidate vying for a Martin School Board post.  
She was backed by Moms for Liberty, which in July donated $250, and finance reports show in May radio and TV political commentator Dan Bongino, of Palm City, donated $1,000. She also received $1,000 from Vero Beach podcaster Dennis Lynch.
Bernstein, meanwhile, spent $56,722, which far outpaced the $40,188 Russell had spent by Election Day. Both women loaned their campaigns $1,000, according to election finance reports.
Bernstein had backing from some local elected officials: Stuart City Commissioners Eula Clarke and Michael Meier, and former School Board member Victoria Defenthaler, who donated $250. She also received a $500 donation from the local American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees. The rest of her funds largely came from individual donors.
Russell received $1,000 donations from a handful of political action committees, some associated with the Republican Party: Friends of Ron DeSantis, Best By Kids, John Snyder for Florida and Heavens to Oceans, which is associated with state Rep. Toby Overdorf.
Other contributors with GOP ties included Dan Bongino, who donated $1,000; former Florida Senate President Joe Negron and his wife Rebecca, who gave a combined $1,000; Martin County Sheriff Will Snyder, who donated $250; and Martin County Commission candidate Doug Mustapick, of Stuart, who gave Russell $250.
Pritchett and Russell will both serve four-year terms, which begin Nov. 22, and each are paid $37,802 annually.


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