A week before the deadline to announce candidacy for the Missoula County Public School board elections, local real estate agent John Suprock bought an advertisement in the Missoulian offering a $10,000 campaign contribution to anyone who sought to unseat incumbent board members. Specifically, Suprock targeted Toni Rehbein, Scott Bixler, Joe Toth and Drake Lemm, all of whom voted in favor of Superintendent Alex Apostle's 13 percent pay raise. The March 21 advertisement stated, "Let's get some common sense back on the School Board."
"My biggest issue is people getting elected to office and then not voting representative of the people who elected them," Suprock recently told the Indy. "It's time for a change."
Suprock's bounty succeeded in generating buzz. Local media picked up on it and Bixler, who is running for re-election, filed an official complaint with the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices, claiming Suprock's ad lacked requisite "paid for by" disclosures and violated Montana's nominations statute.
But Suprock's wife, Laurie, the fine arts secretary with MCPS, says she supports her husband's efforts. "People are pretty in favor of his feelings," she says. "It's not about money. It's about change." (When asked if he was concerned about his wife's employment status when planning the ad, Suprock replied, "I didn't think that should be a problem. I guess that's all I should say.")
Whether spurred by Suprock's gimmick or not, last week's filing deadline did find a number of unlikely candidates calling for changenone more so than Michael Beers, a coordinator for Summit Living Center and stand-up comic. Beers, who was born with VACTERL association, a condition that can cause limb defects and cardiovascular anomalies, feels the MCPS board is sometimes one-dimensional in terms of perspective.
"On paper, I should not have succeeded. Whether because of disability, family income, being adoptedall these things are red flags," says the 2001 Hellgate graduate. "But my teachers went above and beyond. It took a village to get me to graduation. And this was way before Graduation Matters."
Beers says he is running not because current members are doing a bad job, but because his is a voice not currently represented. "There are a hundred stories I think back to going through MCPS that made me the person I am today," he says. "I just want to add my perspective."
Beers plans to finalize a strategy for the May 7 election this week. He's not yet sure how he'll fund his campaign; there's been no word from Suprock.