With less than five percent of Durham’s registered voters showing up at the polls yesterday, Leigh Bordley won handily over Jonathan Alston in the runoff for the at-large seat on the Durham Public Schools Board of Education. Bordley won 82.6 percent of the vote, with 6,384 ballots cast in her favor, according to unofficial results from the Durham Board of Elections. Alston garnered 1,323 votes or 17 percent of total ballots cast.

“There weren’t nearly as many people who came out,” Bordley says. “I feel like the people who came out were particularly interested in the schools.”

Bordley credits the victory to an aggressive campaign, with lots of signs, e-mails and parties.

The runoff election followed a closely contested primary in May, when Alston bested two other candidatesBordley and Nancy Cox. Alston’s victory came as a surprise because he had not raised money or run much of a campaign. He did, however, win the endorsement of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, an influential political group. The Durham Committee endorsement was particularly weighty in the primary, because waves of African-Americans went to the polls, drawn by Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Barack Obama. Alston is black. Bordley and Cox are white. Half of the electorate turned out for the primary.

“I received thousands of white votes,” Alston said of the May primary. “It would be a discredit to say they voted for me because I’m black.”

“A lot of people I talked to did not even know the election was going on,” he said referring to yesterday’s contest. “It was a low turnout for the people that supported me the last time. If it had been a major election it would have been a different story.”

Bordley will join the seven-member board in July. She will replace outgoing at-large school board member Steve Schewel, who did not run for re-election.