Both incumbents running for reelection to the Cedar Rapids City Council won in the combined city-school election on Tuesday, and union leader and small-business owner Patrick Loeffler won an open at-large seat on the council.
But it was a different story for the school board. A challenger beat the only incumbent running for reelection by 13 percentage points.
There were also two at-large school board seats on the ballot, which were won by first-time candidates.
The city council race in District 2 became the subject of a controversy earlier this year, when all three members of the Linn County Board of Supervisors endorsed Sofia Mehaffey, who was challenging incumbent Scott Overland. Traditionally, the supervisors stay out of city races, and many Cedar Rapids political leaders objected to their endorsements.
“This isn’t about Sofia Mehaffey,” Councilmember Dale Todd told the Gazette in May. “I don’t want to shortchange an African-American woman running for office. But in terms of the involvement of the Board of Supervisors in city elections, from my 30 years of being involved in city politics, it’s unprecedented and in my mind unproductive … How do you sit across the table and negotiate in good faith when you know politically they put a hit on you and actively worked to unseat you?”
Overland defeated Mehaffey in Tuesday’s election by 325 votes, winning 52 percent of the 2,723 votes cast in the district.
The supervisors — Stacey Walker, Ben Rogers and Brent Oleson — endorsed Loeffler as well, who was running for an open at-large seat and won with 25 percent of the vote. Also on Tuesday, at-large incumbent Ann Poe was elected to her third term on the council, receiving 32 percent of the 22,284 votes cast citywide.
The third candidate in the race for the two at-large seats, Jorel Robinson, garnered 18 percent of the vote.
District 4 incumbent Scott Olson was unopposed in his reelection bid.
But the incumbent in District 4 of the Cedar Rapids Community School District, Rafael Jacobo, did face a challenger. Jacobo lost to first-time candidate Dexter Merschbrock, who decided to run against Jacobo because of the incumbent’s support of the Facilities Master Plan.
Merschbrock helped lead the citizen opposition to the plan, which the school board unanimously approved in January 2018.
The plan is supposed to improve school facilities, and consolidate the district’s elementary school student body into fewer, larger schools. It will close eight elementary schools — Garfield, Grant Wood, Kenwood, Madison, Nixon, Taylor, Truman and Van Buren — over the next two decades. Ten schools will be torn down and replaced, and three existing schools — Grant, Hiawatha and Viola Gibson — will be renovated. Harrison Elementary School will be assessed for possible renovation.
“When no other candidates declared to challenge the incumbent who supported the plan, I decided to run to speak out for my neighborhood and all the neighborhoods affected,” Merschbrock told Little Village.
Merschbrock, who had never run for elective office before, won with 56 percent of the 8,756 votes cast in District 4.
There were also two open at-large school board seats on the ballot Tuesday. Cindy Garlock, who retired after 33 years of teaching in Cedar Rapids schools, finished first among the five candidates in the race, with 33 percent of the vote. Jen Neumann, the CEO of de Novo Marketing, who won the other at-large seat, got 23 percent of the 16,727 votes cast district-wide.
David Tominsky was unopposed in his bid for the open school board seat in District 1. Mary Meisterling, who represented the district for five terms, decided against running for reelection.