PORTLAND (AP) – A petition drive aimed at giving the boot to three Portland School Committee members who voted to offer prescription contraceptives to girls at King Middle School’s health center has failed.

The petitioners needed at least 3,000 voter signatures to trigger a recall election but collected fewer than 100 as of New Year’s Day, one day before the deadline.

Nick McGee, chairman of the Republican City Committee, conceded that the monthlong petition drive failed “miserably” in its attempt to remove Rebecca Minnick, Robert O’Brien and Sarah Thompson from office but said it succeeded in other ways.

“Our goal was to put the question out to the voters,” McGee said. “We wanted to make sure people had a voice.”

Characterizing the recall effort as an unfortunate distraction from the committee’s financial and administration challenges, O’Brien said the petition drive failed largely because people came to terms with the panel’s stance on the birth control issue.

“I think a lot of people were initially concerned, and the more they learned about it, they realized it was a rational decision,” he said.

The petition drive was launched after the Republican group collected 500 voter signatures in October and November to begin the recall process.

Other committee members were not targeted by the petition campaign because they will be up for election next fall or were newly elected to the board.

The School Committee voted 7-2 in October to make King the first middle school in Maine to offer a full range of contraception to girls in grades six to eight.

The school’s health center has provided condoms since 2000 and advocates of prescription birth control said it would protect the health and futures of a few King students who are sexually active.

Information from: Portland Press Herald, http://www.pressherald.com

AP-ES-01-02-08 1016EST

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