Democrat Catherine Pozniak has outraised her incumbent opponent David Chastain more than two to one in the race for the Cobb Board of Education Post 4.
Pozniak, a former educator, reported a haul of $22,917 as of the latest contribution disclosure deadline. Chastain, the school board’s Republican chairman, reported raising $8,018.
The race is one of three on the school board this November, but is expected by observers and local activists to be the most consequential.
“It's the race to watch, not only because of the way the districts were drawn, but I think fundraising is typically an indicator of where the energy is,” said state Rep. Erick Allen, D-Smyrna, chairman of the Cobb County Legislative Delegation.
By the fundraising standard, Post 4 leads the pack. In southeast Cobb’s Post 2 (currently held by Dr. Jaha Howard, who’s not running for reelection) Democrat Becky Sayler has raised $14,400, while her opponent, Republican Stephen George, did not report raising any funds.
Democrat Nichelle Davis, running unopposed in south Cobb’s Post 6 (held by Democrat Charisse Davis, who’s also stepping down), has raised just over $3,400.
It’s also the most statistically competitive, according to Cobb Democratic activist Matt Yarbrough. By his estimates of the newly drawn districts, posts 2 and 6 went to Democratic President Joe Biden by nearly 70% in 2020.
Post 4, in contrast, went 48.3% to Biden and is trending blue, Yarbrough said. His numbers show gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams received around 45% of the vote in the district in 2018, and Hillary Clinton earned about 40%.
That puts the Chastain-Pozniak contest as the major opportunity for Democrats to take control of the school board, or for Republicans to hold onto their 4-3 majority. GOP members have warned the fate of not just the board, but of Superintendent Chris Ragsdale, hangs in the balance.
“I think the stakes for the county in general are huge," said Cobb Republican Party Chair Salleigh Grubbs. "Cobb County does not need to be another Gwinnett County,” where Democrats ousted longtime Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks last year. "We can see what happens when you get the radical left in a school district.”
She added, “I expect the race to go for David Chastain, simply because I know David, I think he's been an excellent board member, and I think he has done a great job in managing the district … I don't think that there would be any calls to see a big change there.”
Countered Allen, “If you would have asked me when these districts were redrawn whether or not (Post 4) was going to be in play, I probably would have said no.”
But Allen said the mood in the county has changed given the school board’s controversies, namely the recent decision to bring armed, non-police security into schools.
“I think (the district) is significantly in play … I think that there are people underestimating how frustrated parents are. The one place where you typically don't want politics is in your school board, and there is no reason for our school board to be performing the way that is,” he said.
Pozniak previously worked in schools in Louisiana prior to returning to her native Cobb, and several of her largest donors came from that state. Joanna Wurtele ($3,000), Jennifer Eplett Reilly ($1,000), Leslie Jacobs ($1,000) and James Garvey ($1,000) are all Louisiana residents who gave to Pozniak, per her disclosure.
Pozniak’s largest single donor is Democrats for Educational Equity, a Washington D.C.-based group, which has donated $5,800 to date. Local donors to the first-time candidate include current school board member Charisse Davis ($105), along with Craig Bauer ($500) and Anne Mellen ($1,000) of Marietta.
Chastain, meanwhile, reported donations from Marietta law firm Bentley Bentley & Bentley ($250), fellow board member Randy Scamihorn ($500), Stancil Wise ($500), Jimmy Ayer ($500), and former Georgia Attorney General and Cobb Chairman Sam Olens ($125).
Further donations came from Marietta’s Jillian Investments ($1,000) and Melissa Bottoms ($1,000). Chastain has also loaned himself $500.
All told, Pozniak has spent $4,559 of the nearly $23,000 she’s raised, leaving her with $18,357. Most of her expenditures have gone to run-of-the-mill campaign costs like mailers, databases, and a website.
Her counterpart Chastain has spent $3,167 out of $8,018 raised, leaving him with $4,850. Most of his cash has gone toward signs, on which he spent around $2,500.