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Rochester School Board incumbents and conservative challengers move onto the general election

School board elections are technically nonpartisan races. However, the primary turned into a race deeply dividing voters into two camps.

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Rochester School Board candidate Jean Marvin speaks at a forum, held July 13, 2022.
Jordan Shearer / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — The Rochester School Board incumbents and their challengers from the conservative bloc are headed to the general election in November after Tuesday's primary.

In each of the three school board races, the incumbents scored the highest number of votes. Each of the members of self-described bloc of conservative candidates earned the second highest number of votes, leaving behind the three candidates not associated with either group.

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The two incumbents moving forward are Jean Marvin and Cathy Nathan. Although Justin Cook is not an incumbent, he received an endorsement from incumbent Melissa Amundsen, who chose not to seek re-election.

The members of the conservative bloc who are heading forward include Elena Niehoff, Rae Parker and Kim Rishavy.

The candidates for the fourth school board seat, Julie Workman and John Whelan, were not included in the primary since they were the only two who filed for that race. Both of them will be included in the Nov. 8 general election.

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Just after midnight with 100 of 102 precincts reporting, Cook took 51.49% of the votes, Rae Parker took 28.76%, and Abdullahi Yusuf took 19.75% for Seat 2.

For Seat 5, Marvin took 58.61% of the votes, Rishavy took 34.45%, and A. Mohamed "Chief" took 6.94%.

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Rochester School Board candidate Kimberly Rishavy speaks at a forum, held July 13, 2022.
Jordan Shearer / Post Bulletin

For Seat 6, Nathan took 56.71% of the votes, Niehoff took 27.87%, and Patrick Farmer took 15.43%.

School board elections are technically nonpartisan races. However, the primary turned into a race deeply dividing voters into two camps: those supporting the incumbents and those seeking a change in leadership through the conservative bloc.

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Rochester School Board candidate Justin Cook speaks at a forum.
Jordan Shearer / Post Bulletin

The candidates from each group spared over topics ranging from equity to the district's finances. November's general election could significantly impact the direction of the entire district, depending on how many candidates from each group walk away as victors.

The only other school district in the area to have a primary election for its school board was Winona Area Schools. The four candidates moving forward to the general election for the two at-large seats are incumbents Karl Sonneman and Nancy Denzer, as well as Torry Moore and Maurella L. Cunningham.

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Rochester School Board candidate Elena Niehoff speaks during a forum at the Rochester Public Library, held July 14, 2022.
Jordan Shearer / Post Bulletin
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Rochester School Board candidate Rae Parker speaks at a forum.
Jordan Shearer / Post Bulletin.
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Rochester School Board candidate Cathy Nathan speaks at a forum at the Rochester Public Library on Thursday, July 14, 2022.

Jordan Shearer covers K-12 education for the Post Bulletin. A Rochester native, he graduated from Bemidji State University in 2013 before heading out to write for a small newsroom in the boonies of western Nebraska. Bringing things full circle, he returned to Rochester in 2020 just shy of a decade after leaving. Readers can reach Jordan at 507-285-7710 or jshearer@postbulletin.com.
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