"We're going to frame this," said recall-organizer Annie Oatman-Gardner on Tuesday night, as she held the results page from the long-anticipated School District 11 recall election.
Voters showed overwhelming support for the effort that yanked contentious board members Eric Christen and Sandy Shakes and replaced them with Charlie Bobbitt and Janet Tanner, respectively. Director Craig Cox, the ousted duo's ideological ally, also submitted an e-mail resignation Wednesday morning to the board secretary.
The End the Chaos recall group's election night party at the Clarion Hotel exploded with applause when the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office released recall results late Tuesday evening. Board member Tami Hasling, who has been an outspoken critic of Christen, was teary-eyed, saying, "I'm relieved. Now we can focus on education and not agendas."
Former board member and recall organizer Norvell Simpson, who said he spoke with 15 previous board presidents all of whom supported the recall stood at the center of the room and pounded his fist toward the ground.
"Did we do it?" he asked the several dozen guests. "Are we going to do it again? Four more years. We are starting the campaign now! No, now!"
Indeed, many in attendance pointed to the fact that seven in 10 voters supported the recall as a sure sign of success in the upcoming November school board election.
D-11's past two elections have been rife with discord. In 2003, pro-school voucher candidates Christen, Shakes, Cox and Willie Breazell were ushered onto the board with the massive financial backing of local developer Steve Schuck. In 2005, public school advocates John Gudvangen, Sandra Mann and Tami Hasling were elected with heavy 527 funding and the help of many who would later join the End the Chaos ranks.
Schuck, who remained largely silent throughout the six-month recall effort, showed renewed interest in District 11 at a press conference last week, at which Cox and several others publicly announced their support of recall candidates Gregory Garcia and Don Schley.
Schuck, who also supported unsuccessful 2005 school board candidates Carla Albers, Reginald Perry and Bob Lathen, said he will "absolutely" back candidates in the upcoming November election.
He spoke favorably of Christen's resignation announcement, which came three weeks before the recall vote, calling him a "major distraction."
"The time has come to move beyond personalities," he said.
Christen formally submitted his resignation to the board early last week with an effective date of Dec. 17, the Clerk and Recorder's deadline to certify the outcome of Tuesday's vote. Cox's resignation, which still must be verified by the district, has an effective date of Dec. 31. Christen, Cox and Shakes did not return phone calls seeking comment. Breazell, meanwhile, said Wednesday that he will remain on the board.
New board members Tanner and Bobbitt will attend their first meeting once the votes are certified. Asked what his first plans for the board will be, Bobbitt said, "I'm going to listen." Registered voters: 143,168
Ballots cast: 28,713
Charlie Bobbitt: 55.04%
Gregory Garcia: 32.29%
Albert Gonzales: 12.67%
Janet Tanner: 67.25%
Don Schley: 32.75%