Republicans holding lead for state education board

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

Republican candidates were winning two open seats formerly held by Democrats on the State Board of Education, according to unofficial results Wednesday.

GOP candidates former state Rep. Tom McMillin and Whitmore Lake GOP activist Nicolette Snyder were leading the polls Wednesday morning, with 79 of Michigan’s 83 counties reporting.

McMillin and Snyder had 30 percent and 29 percent of the vote respectively, with 1.1 million votes tallied Wednesday morning.

Democratic State Board President John Austin, who sought to hold his seat, had 16 percent of the vote.

Tom McMillin.

Republicans and Democrats traditionally compete for the slots that carry eight-year terms. The board is responsible for educational leadership in Michigan, but the state Legislature sets most education policy for the state’s 1.5 million public school students through the passage of laws and the school budget.

While Austin ran as an incumbent, a vacancy was created when longtime Democratic board member and educator Kathleen Straus decided not to seek re-election.

State Board of Education President John Austin.

Also running was Democrat Ishmael Ahmed of Novi, a senior adviser to the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s chancellor and a co-founder of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services. Ahmed said he was running to oppose “those who want to end public education” and people hostile to minority groups, including immigrants, Muslims and gays.

Ishmael Ahmed

Ahmed held 13 percent of the vote early Wednesday morning.

McMillin, who is from Rochester Hills, and Snyder, a registered nurse and lactation consultant, were the GOP’s only candidates.

McMillin and Snyder oppose the voluntary federal Common Core standards as an intrusion on the local control of education and detracting from learning.

The Green, Libertarian and US Taxpayers parties are each fielding two candidates, while the Working Class Party has one candidate in the field.

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau