PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Two Palm Beach County School Board races will head to a runoff in the November election after no single candidate was able to capture 50% of the vote in the primary on Tuesday.
These school board races have become more heated and more political than ever before, even though they are non-partisan.
The tightest race Tuesday was for the District 7 seat, which covers parts of West Palm Beach and Riviera Beach. Current school board member Dr. Debra Robinson is not running for re-election after serving on the Palm Beach County School Board for 22 years.
Local attorneys Edwin Ferguson and Corey Michael Smith will go to a runoff in November after nabbing 43% and 41% of the vote, respectively. Ferguson is the husband of WPTV sports anchor Keli Ferguson.
In District 6, which covers Royal Palm Beach, Wellington, and the Glades, incumbent and career educator Marcia Andrews is seeking her fourth term. Even after dominating the race with 48% of the vote against a competitive field, she will have a runoff in November against challenger Jennifer Showalter, who collected 18% of votes.
In District 3, which represents parts of west Delray Beach and west Boynton Beach, incumbent Karen Brill won her fourth term on the board, defeating Kristen Stevenson, Bailey Lashells, and Connor Frontera by a wide margin with 69% of the vote.
"I think that what this shows is that the public knows that we are really doing an excellent job with Palm Beach County," Brill told WPTV after declaring victory. "We have the right initiatives in place. We put our children and our employees first. I think this sends a very strong message that experience matters."
Brill said her top priorities include school safety and raising the academic performance of students.
"Meet the needs of all of our students. Give them what they need to support their mental health, raise their reading scores, early childhood education. There's just so much that we can be doing, that we need to keep doing," Brill said.
WATCH: WPTV speaks to Palm Beach County School Board member Karen Brill
In the race for District 4, which covers parts of Boynton Beach, Lake Worth Beach, and West Palm Beach, incumbent Erica Whitfield won her third term with 68% of the vote, easily defeating challenger Angelique Contreras, an outspoken parent at school board meetings who was against the School District of Palm Beach County's mask mandate and is in favor of the newly passed "Parental Rights In Education" law, dubbed by critics the "Don't Say Gay" measure.
"I am grateful. Very, very grateful," Whitfield said after her victory. "This work is really important. I think it's the most important job in Palm Beach County, and I've absolutely dedicated myself to it."
Whitfield is a former Palm Beach County Health Department employee and said the school district's top priority should be the safety and security of students and staff members.
"I just want to take care of these kids in Palm Beach County. I want to support every one," Whitfield said. "I want to make sure that parents feel welcome, children feel welcome. This is a school system that wants your children in it, and we want to take care of you. We want to give you the best education that we can."
WATCH: Palm Beach County School Board member Erica Whitfield speaks to WPTV
This is a school board election cycle unlike one we've ever seen before with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis actually getting involved and endorsing several candidates, including one in Indian River County and one in Martin County.
In Palm Beach County, there were four seats up for grabs on Tuesday, with three incumbents running for re-election.
Several of the challengers were parents who became very vocal and involved during the COVID-19 pandemic, speaking out against mask mandates and standing up for parental rights.
WATCH: Palm Beach County School Board races more politicized than ever before
WPTV political analyst Brian Crowley told anchor Michael Williams on "To The Point" that this is the most partisan election cycle he's ever seen for races that are not supposed to be tied to political parties.
"I think it says that a lot of folks who are excited on individual issues don't really understand what it means to be on the school board," Crowley said. "There's a million things you do. It's like running a business. So they can get all excited about these hot blood issues, but in the long run, it's not as important as the day-to-day operations in the schools."
Palm Beach County School Board members serve four-year terms. Three additional seats will be up for grabs in 2024.