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Gone...But will she be forgotten?

First a college student studying in Hawaii realized that campaigning for school board made no sense. So he changed his mind and publicly called it quits.

But it was too late to delete his name from the ballot and non-candidate Dusty Pfundheller still got 517 votes in the Feb. 19 primary.

Now school board candidate Peggy Foster Harris (a.k.a. Jane Jorgensen) says she got in over her head and wants out.

Foster Harris, making no effort to campaign or appear in a recent Journal candidates' profile, still got 1,151 votes in the Feb. 19 primary -- good enough for second place and a spot on the April 1 spring election ballot.

"I really don't know how I finished second," Foster Harris admitted last week. "It surprised me."

Foster Harris wants to bow out, but Darlene MacBride, school district administrative assistant, says that time has long passed.

"Officially, there's nothing I can do," MacBride said, noting that the Jan. 2 filing deadline by school board candidates sets their names in stone -- whether they later have second thoughts, cold feet or whatever.

So the name Peggy Foster Harris is destined to appear on the April 1 ballot -- and not as an April Fools' joke. Still, the candidate maintains she's out of the race -- at least in spirit.

Foster Harris said she will also inform MacBride of her intention, but as of Tuesday had not done so.

Foster Harris said she was not only surprised to finish second in the primary, but surprised at how baffling the school board job appears.

"They've been sending me materials, agendas and policies, and I don't think I can deal with it," she said. "It's too complicated and seems redundant. I didn't expect that it would be this way."

Foster Harris said she never checked the primary voting results, but that acquaintances told her she got more than 1,000 votes and advanced to the spring election.

Foster Harris said the other three April 1 candidates - Stacy Johnson-Myers, Rellen Hardtke and Geoff Force -- "seem way more qualified than me."

Foster Harris said she decided to file papers as a candidate after reading that, early on, there was only one candidate for two open spots on the school board.

"I thought, 'Why not?' Now I feel really trapped," she said. "I'm flattered to get all those votes, and I'm sorry some will be disappointed that I'm dropping out, but they would be even more disappointed if I got on and they could see I couldn't handle things."

The 54-year-old Foster Harris legally changed her name last year from Jane Jorgensen. She's written letters to the Journal under that name and, years earlier, as Suzy Israel.

Foster Harris said name changing is part of her life.

"I don't know why, after a while I don't feel comfortable with them," she said. "I kept the (Jane Jorgensen) name for seven years -- that's pretty long, I guess. It was just a user name."

Foster Harris says she doesn't have a split personality but sometimes feels like creating "a new image" for herself.

She claims she was born in Minneapolis and called Patricia Eileen Borchard.

Ironically, she said she came to River Falls with a daughter on 9-11 after breaking up with her boyfriend. The two lived in a Twin Cities suburb.

Foster Harris said she had a granddaughter who briefly attended a River Falls school. Other than that, she has no other connection to school district affairs -- and no real interest.

She was also friends with the late Bruce Foster -- a descendent himself of Joel Foster, considered the founder of River Falls in the mid-19th century.

"Bruce used to joke that if I ever got into politics, I should use the name Foster Hoffman to help get elected," Foster Harris said.

Hoffman is another well-known local name. In past decades Spike Hoffman and Darl Hoffman were elected mayor in River Falls.

Foster Harris said that instead of Hoffman, she took the name "Harris" -- the last name of her current boyfriend, Bruce Harris, who lives in WelLHaven apartments next to The Lutheran Home.

Foster Harris promised to read a statement at a school board candidate forum later this month declaring that she's not running for office.

Barb Peterson, local co-president of the American Association of University Women, said the school board candidate forum will be at 7 p.m. Monday, March 24, in the high school library.

The forum is sponsored by the AAUW and the local League of Women Voters.

Peterson said school district voters have tough choices to make.

"In my view, this is a very important election with some major issues," she said. "We've also still got three very good candidates left. The two who are leaving (Chris Wing and Bob Gustafson) are excellent, well-informed board members. We need to find replacements who are equally committed and involved."

The March 24 forum is set up so spectators ask the questions. These are submitted to a moderator. Every effort is made to get those questions answered by the candidates.

The school district's and city's cable channels will telecast the forum -- the district's telecast will be live.

Peterson said the large numbers voting for a college student who withdrew and for Foster Harris, who did not promote her candidacy, is disturbing.

"There are two basic duties when it comes to civic responsibilities," she said. "One is to vote, and people did that, which is good. But the second is to be an informed voter.

"Frankly, I did not see that second thing happen in the February school primary. I hope it'll be different in the next election."

Peterson said Foster Harris has "agreed to read her withdrawal statement" at the start of the March 24 candidates forum.