Don’t expect more nastiness in Pasco superintendent race, hopeful says

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Tampa Bay Times | by Jeffrey S. Solochek | August 19, 2020

Having watched the Republican primary for Pasco County superintendent from the sidelines, no-party candidate Cynthia Thompson said she learned some lessons for her general election campaign against incumbent Kurt Browning.

One key takeaway: “I am not going to be negative.”

Thompson, a Bayonet Point Middle School teacher, said she agreed with primary runnerup David LaRoche that the district needs a change in direction, with an educator at the helm. But LaRoche’s campaign focused too much on complaining and attacks, she said, without providing enough solutions.

“I want to stay as positive as possible,” she said. “I think throwing dirt on others is not the way to go.”

More important, she contended, is taking steps to make the community know that its questions and concerns are heard and addressed — particularly at a time when so much angst exists over the safety of the school system.

“I just feel strongly about making sure that the community is being listened to,” Thompson said. “That’s one of the biggest issues right now. Parents don’t feel like they’re being heard. Staff don’t feel like they’re being heard. … We all have to work together and we all have to get our basic needs met or else we’re not going to be able to achieve.”

Thompson pointed to potential problems associated with student learning losses over the spring of remote learning and the summer without classes. Everyone wants to resume teaching and learning in a safe way, she said, yet so many people have basic questions about returning that haven’t been answered.

She said she planned to begin releasing clear plans for her vision, without making attacks.

Browning, who won the primary with about two-thirds of the vote, said he planned to continue running on his record of achievements. He also said he would not conduct a negative campaign, as in his view that does not win elections.

Thompson originally filed to run in the Republican primary, but changed her party affiliation on the last day of qualifying. She had come under fire by LaRoche supporters for not allowing their candidate to have a clear shot at Browning.

She agreed that two opponents would split the opposition vote. She also said she didn’t want to be viewed as a political party candidate.

Without a party affiliation, Thompson acknowledged she faced an uphill battle against the incumbent. She intended to move ahead with her campaign.

“If the least I’ve done is make people think, then I’ve already won,” she said.