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After a defeat in the primary election, former Charles County Public Schools teacher Derrick Terry still is vying for a slot on the seven-member Charles County Board of Education as a write-in candidate.

Terry said his many leadership roles hindered him from campaigning harder during the primary. He serves as a special education teacher in Alexandria, Va.; as president of his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha; and as a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserves.

“There were a lot of supporters who were saying to me, ‘I hope that you’ll run next election,’ and I asked, ‘Why do I need to wait to the next election?’” he said.

Terry lost after gaining 3,798 votes, roughly 3.6 percent of the primary votes, but failed to accrue the amount needed to advance to the general election. Twenty candidates filed to run for board of education in the primary, and 14 will proceed to the general. The candidate with lowest number of votes, who still qualified — Karla Kornegay — was only 111 votes ahead of Terry.

From July 6 through 31, Terry was absent from the state training at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado, though that was after the June 24 primary. He also completed his grading and associated duties for his teaching position, a significant commitment, he said.

He and his fraternity, the Sigma Alpha Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, a historically black fraternity, are involved in community endeavors, including a local mentoring program.

“All these things, but especially my military duty, takes precedent over my personal goals,” Terry wrote in an earlier statement.

Terry pointed to low primary voter turnout as a possible factor in his loss — approximately 23 percent of eligible voters statewide cast their ballots in this year’s primary, a record low.

He said he encourages voters to research the remaining candidates, some of whom have failed to state their positions clearly for voters, he said, relying on buzz phrases like “long-time resident” to carry them.

Terry said though he’s perceived some criticism about not being “homegrown,” he is a dedicated public servant and continues to better Charles County.

“I don’t feel honestly Charles County has heard from, personally heard from, these candidates, and I would like to see that,” he said. “They deserve more than just reading [their views] in the newspaper.”

Write-in candidates generally succeed more on a local level compared to candidates running for state or federal positions, according to Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

“Then the baseline question is, why is this person a write-in candidate in the first place? Is there something sort of wrong with this person that they couldn’t run in the normal course of events? Often times it’s indicative of other problems with the candidate,” said Eberly, who noted he was unfamiliar with the Charles County school board race.

Melanie B. Holland, a candidate for Charles County commissioner in District 2, also has filed a write-in candidacy after losing to Commissioner Debra M. Davis (D) in the Democratic primary.

Early voting for the general election begins Oct. 23 and continues through Oct. 30 before the Nov. 4 election.

jbauer-wolf@somdnews.com