AUGUSTA — A school board race that initially drew no candidates now has two, although as write-ins neither candidates’ names will be on the election ballot in November.

A second write-in candidate, Sara Squires, has entered the race for the Ward 2 school board seat, joining Chris Clarke in running for the spot. No candidates took out nominations papers before the deadline to be included on the ballot for the board seat.

Squires, public policy director for a local nonprofit organization, said she decided to run after being encouraged to do so back when there were no other candidates for the spot, and because she wants to give back to the school system she says helped make her who she is today.

Clarke had submitted nomination papers to be an official candidate for an available at-large spot on the City Council. But last month he withdrew from that race, in which he would have challenged incumbent Jennifer Day for a seat on the council. Instead, Clarke declared himself to be a write-in candidate for the Ward 2 school board seat, a spot for which he was the only declared write-in candidate.

He declared his candidacy by filing a letter with the city clerk’s office, which in past elections has been required of write-in candidates in order for votes for them to be counted when their names are written-in by voters.

However, city officials have since learned, after consulting with the Secretary of State’s office, when there are no official candidates on the ballot there is no requirement for write-in candidates to officially declare themselves, as Clarke had done.

So while Squires didn’t fill out paperwork with the city to declare herself a write-in candidate, and Clarke did, votes for either of them, which would have to be made by writing in their names, will count the same. That’s true of votes for any other Ward 2 residents whose names are written on the ballot.

Stephen Langsdorf, Augusta’s city attorney, said under state law there is no requirement for candidates to declare themselves to be a candidate, when there is no candidate appearing on the ballot.

Clarke said he still would have entered the school board race even if he knew that another candidate would run.

Clarke said he heard “through the grapevine” that the city had determined — after initially setting a Sept. 25 deadline by which write-in candidates had to declare themselves to be candidates for votes for them to count — that there would be no requirement for write-in candidates to register with the city.

“That did raise a little concern for me, because now we have to wonder if there will be somebody who’ll just throw their name in the ring at the last minute,” Clarke said.

Clarke, a school bus driver in Auburn who also coaches football at Bates College, said now that there is another candidate he’ll spend more time than he had planned campaigning, including looking into soliciting donations to help fund his campaign and get some campaign signs up before the November election.

“It’s good for voters to have a choice, but I hope they make an educated decision, and look at motives and what is the best decision for Augusta,” the 30-year-old Clarke said.

Both candidates said they would go door-to-door to meet residents and introduce themselves between now and the election.

Squires, 38, who grew up in Augusta, said she had been thinking about ways she could get involved in the community, and she has always had an interest in politics and how government works.

She said she is an introvert and that was one reason she didn’t complete nomination papers in order to be placed on the ballot as an official candidate. She said she decided to run as a write-in after she was encouraged to do so by residents.

“To put yourself out there for city council or school board or state Senate, I think, take a lot of courage,” Squires said. “I think what sort of prompted me, at this point, to run was the feedback I got from others when I put the idea out there I was considering doing this. I think it took me a while to get to a point where I feel I could be public with my life.”

The Ward 2 Board of Education seat now is held by Deborah Towle, who will be forced from the seat by the city’s term limits rule, which restricts school board members to three consecutive three-year terms. The election is Nov. 7.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

filed under: