Two incumbents and two newcomers, all Democrats, filed for seats on the Lee County Board of Education on Monday, the first day of local filing for the 2020 election.

Current board Chairman Patrick Kelly, first elected in 2016, and Dr. Lynn Smith, who has served multiple terms since the late 2000s, including a stint as chairman, filed for four year terms Monday afternoon on the school board, alongside newcomers Tom Frye and Jamey Laudate. All of the available seats are elected on an at large basis.

Frye, a former Harnett County Schools superintendent who retired in 2014, and Laudate, who announced his intent to seek a seat on the school board on Nov. 29, joined Kelly and Smith at the Lee County Board of Elections office Monday afternoon to make their bids official. Of the seats up for election in November 2020, two are held by Kelly and Smith, while the other two are held by Republicans Sherry Womack and Stephen Coble.

In a press release sent to the Rant, Kelly said “we are there to serve our teachers, staff and students.  We have (to) think outside of the box and make sure we always ask ‘is this what is best for our students?”

Laudate said in his announcement that “the road to improvement starts with transparency and accountability, from the board and administrators, to faculty and staff, all the way to parents and students.”

Republicans Womack and Coble have both been the subject of controversy. It was revealed in 2017 that Womack had been arrested in 2011 on a breaking and entering charge that was apparently later expunged. Meanwhile, Coble’s party turned on him in 2019 over accusations of “party disloyalty” for a number of votes on a board that until 2013 was nonpartisan.

It’s unclear whether either intends to seek re-election.

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