Challengers unseat two incumbents on Forsyth school board in GOP primary

The Forsyth County Schools building is shown Monday, August 15, 2022. Two Republican incumbents lost in races Tuesday to GOP challengers. (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

The Forsyth County Schools building is shown Monday, August 15, 2022. Two Republican incumbents lost in races Tuesday to GOP challengers. (Jason Getz /

Several incumbent school board members in metro Atlanta cruised to victory in Tuesday’s primary elections, but two in Forsyth County didn’t.

They were handily beaten by two Republican challengers, according to unofficial state results. It was a lightly-attended affair with vote counts in the low thousands.

Trisha Hoyes, a former Forsyth special education teacher, bumped incumbent Lindsey Adams from the November general election, and Dorian Usherwood displaced incumbent Tom Cleveland.

Hoyes and Usherwood will face off against the Democrats this fall. Liberals are wary of their odds in this GOP fortress, where former President Donald Trump found reliable support four years ago.

Hoyes, Usherwood and Chris Grimes, a Republican who ran unopposed for a seat being vacated by the incumbent, will likely join the other two Republicans on the Forsyth school board in January.

Forsyth, the state’s fifth-largest school district, has been ground zero in Georgia for America’s classroom culture wars, with countless contentious school board meetings about books and even a federal lawsuit on the topic that was decided in favor of the school board critics. Members of the current five-member GOP board faced their ire, along with the district’s educators and administrators.

Hoyes said on her campaign website that “whether it’s textbooks pushing dangerous ideology or inappropriate discussions,” she would “fight to keep politics out of our schools.” Usherwood campaigned on three principles: “making sure every tax dollar spent goes to our students’ education, keeping dangerous political ideologies out of the classroom, and holding Forsyth schools to the highest standards of transparency.”

Conservatives there have been critical of school libraries that stock books about social issues, such as homosexuality or diversity. They hailed Tuesday’s outcome.

Dorian Usherwood defeated incumbent Forsyth County school board member Tom Cleveland in the May 21, 2024, Republican Party primary. Campaign photo.

Credit: Campaign photo

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Credit: Campaign photo

“I’m very happy with the direction the board has been going,” said Judy Craft, a longtime activist. “But I think it will be even stronger. It think it will be a better board.”

Craft, who moved to Forsyth a few years ago after years of advocating on social issues in Gwinnett County, co-founded Georgians for Responsible Libraries last summer. She and supporters lobbied state lawmakers last winter to strip school libraries of books with material they think is pornographic.

The Forsyth Coalition for Education, a grassroots group critical of book ban efforts in the district, called the results disappointing. The coalition said in a statement that Hoyes and Usherwood used language during the campaign that “is straight from the playbook of national extremist groups like Moms for Liberty, or closer to home in Forsyth, No Left Turn in Education, and bears no relationship to the reality of our large, excellent, diverse (now a majority-minority) school system.”

Hoyes, 45, is mother to a baby, a toddler and a boy in third grade. Hoyes said she is concerned about maintaining the quality of academics, saying her son didn’t have the best literacy instruction.

As a former teacher who keeps in contact with her old colleagues, she is also concerned about what she thinks are distractions, such as an emphasis on social issues rather than on technical skills, like training teachers how to use phonics to teach reading.

Republican Tricia Hoyes defeated incumbent Forsyth County school board member Lindsey Adams in the May 21, 2024, primary. Campaign photo.

Credit: Campaign

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Credit: Campaign

Hoyes said students are being exposed to mature issues at too early an age, noting that her son brought home a book in kindergarten that featured a child with gay male parents.

“I’m not for book banning. I just strongly feel that some of these books should be coming from home, and not in the school,” she said in an interview Wednesday with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The turnout was under 7% of registered voters in the two contested races. Zachary Peskowitz, who teaches political science at Emory University, said a key endorsement or an activated social network of volunteers can swing small elections like that. He noted that the number of voters in these school board races was smaller than for other races on the ballot, meaning some voters just skipped past the education candidates.

Republican voters far outnumbered Democrats in Tuesday’s primaries.

Anita Tucker, an activist Democrat in Forsyth, was discouraged by the outcome.

The school board is all Republican, and Tucker frets about the power they and the newcomers will likely wield after the general election.

“Our board of education is being taken over by the extremists,” she said.

Hoyes said she was inspired to run by basic concerns like school crowding in her fast-growing community. And she complained that as a member on her local school council, she was frustrated when her school board member didn’t turn up to talk.

If the political winds in Forsyth continue to blow in favor of Republicans this November, Hoyes will be sworn in as a school board member in January, with a lot of school council meetings to attend.

Staff writer Martha Dalton contributed to this article.