Emily Figdor won an open seat on the Portland Board of Public Education by a nearly 2-1 margin on Tuesday.

Emily Figdor

Figdor earned about 64 percent of the vote to beat Jeanne Swanton for the District 2 seat, which represents the western portion of the peninsula, by a vote of 3,763 to 2,129, according to results for all 12 of the city’s voting precincts. Incumbent Holly Seeliger did not seek reelection.

Figdor, who spent about $4,000 of her own money in the last week of the campaign, defeated her fellow co-founder of Protect our Neighborhood Schools, which led the successful campaign to last year to pass a $64 million bond to renovated four elementary schools.

It’s a decisive victory against a candidate who had the backing of the city’s political establishment. Swanton was supported by five sitting school board members, five city councilors and other city leaders like former state Sen. Justin Alfond and former Councilors Cheryl Leeman and Jon Hinck. Figdor was backed by Mayor Ethan Strimling, former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Betsy Sweet and school board member Tim Atkinson.

“Portlanders want to invest in universal pre-K and fully fund Superintendent (Xavier) Botana’s five-year plan to close the achievement gap,” Figdor said Wednesday. “That’s what I said I would do, and voters responded very strongly to that message.”

The most recent cost estimate for providing universal pre-kindergarten to 140 students would be roughly $3 million a year, The Forecaster reported. Figdor also was a vocal supporter for Botana’s original $113 million budget request, which would have increased the school’s portion of the tax rate by nearly 10 percent.

Both Figdor and Swanton have children attending Reiche Elementary School and King Middle School, and both played key roles in the successful $64 million school renovation bond campaign to renovate Longfellow, Lyseth, Presumpscot and Reiche elementary schools.

Figdor, who is a campaign director for MoveOn.org, said she wanted to make the move from outside activist to voting board member. She wanted to expand pre-kindergarten offerings and support the district’s long-term education goals, called the “Portland Promise.”

Swanton, who also ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2012, provides project management and bookkeeping services to several local Portland businesses. She said she wanted to make district finances the priority.

The district is currently in the midst of a major facilities assessment, with an eye toward possible redistricting or school closures. Both Figdor and Swanton said they support renovating the four elementary schools and support neighborhood schools, but understand the current process needs to play out.

Figdor raised more than $11,000 for her campaign, including $4,000 she gave herself on Oct. 29 so she could do a mailer, according to 24-hour reports filed at City Hall.

Swanton has raised at least $7,305 and did not report any additional late funding infusions that would have triggered a 24-hour report.

In other elections for the school board, Sarah Thompson and Abusana “Micky” Bondo ran unopposed and were elected to an at-large seat and District 1 seat, respectively.

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