Votes are still being tallied from California’s June 7 Primary Election but so far incumbents are dominating in races for posts related to education. Of note, in the statewide race for California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction the incumbent is leading but it’s not yet clear who he’ll face in the November runoff.
As of June 13, there were around 120,000 ballots left to process by the Orange County Registrar of Voters. Counties must submit their election results to the Secretary of State by July 8 who will officially certify the election on July 15.
Here’s a closer look at the numbers and what some candidates are saying.
In Orange County, the current Superintendent of Public Instruction and three incumbents on the Board of Education are all leading their challengers. In these races there is no runoff.
For Orange County Board of Education Trustee Area 2, current Board President Mari Barke is leading with 59% of the vote according to the latest update on June 13 from the O.C. Registrar of Voters.
Trustee Area 2 covers Seal Beach, Rossmoor, Los Alamitos, Cypress, Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Costa Mesa and parts of Newport Beach and portions of Irvine.
In an email to Spotlight Schools, Barke said she felt “blessed” to be re-elected by her community.
“As a result of the significant victories over our opponents that my colleagues and I received during the recent election, as well as the feedback given to me while knocking on thousands of doors in my district, I feel as though we have been given a mandate to continue our important work with regard to school choice and parental rights,” Barke wrote.
Challenger Martha Fluor, a retired trustee on the Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board of Education, trails Barke with 31% of the vote.
“I am disappointed,” Fluor wrote in an email to Spotlight Schools. “It does indicate that elections can be bought,” Fluor added in reference to donations made by the Charter Schools Political Action Committee which, according to public campaign financing records, donated a total of $225,000 to the campaigns of the three OCBOE incumbents.
Fluor thanked those who voted for her and was grateful for “the many individuals, including school board members, PTA/PFO members, Girl Scout leaders, teachers, and trade and labor unions, WIL (Women in Leadership and WAVE) who support public education.”
Fluor said it was important for her supporters to stay engaged and attend OCBOE meetings.
Architect Christopher R. Ganiere earned 9% of the vote. In a message on his Instagram page this week he thanked the voters who supported him, “Thank you for being concerned about children and schools and the future of Orange County.”
In Trustee Area 4, Tim Shaw is leading his challengers with 50% of the vote. The closest opponent is Paulette Chaffee who trails with 32% of the vote. A win by Shaw could settle an ongoing legal battle for the seat that covers Buena Park, La Habra and Fullerton. Shaw first won the Trustee Area 4 seat in 2020. But in 2021 he stepped down over the threat of a lawsuit alleging his serving on both the board and La Habra City Council was illegal. After resigning from the city council, the board of education reappointed Shaw to the Trustee Area 4 post. But a lawsuit alleged that appointment was illegal and in May a judge ruled him to be temporarily barred from serving on the board of education.
In Trustee Area 5, incumbent Lisa Sparks had 65% of the vote while challenger Sherine Smith, a former superintendent of the Laguna Beach Unified School District, had 35%. The newly redrawn district covers Laguna Beach, San Clemente, and Mission Viejo.
In the race for Orange County Superintendent of Public Instruction, incumbent Al Mijares, Ph.D., is leading with 55% of the vote. Challenger Stefan Bean, Ed.D, a former head of Aspire charter schools, trailed with 45% of the vote. Bean was backed by the current OCBOE majority, which is currently involved in litigation with Mijares.
When asked about the reaction to this race, Board President Barke wrote in an email: “My colleagues and I will work collaboratively with the County Superintendent in the best interests of the students and families of Orange County.”
Superintendent of Public Instruction – Second Place too close to call
As of June 13, incumbent Tony K. Thurmond is leading with 46.1% of the vote and that’s less than the simple majority he needs to avoid a runoff in the November General Election. Now the big question is which candidate will earn that second spot. Current tallies show Lance Ray Christensen, a policy specialist for the California Policy Center, with 11.6% of the vote and George Yang, an engineer from the Bay Area with 11.3%. Ainye E. Long, an educator from San Francisco, is close behind with 11.2% of the vote. The biggest spender in this race was from a political action committee backed by school employee unions supporting Thurmond which raised more than $2 million according to state records. For more background on this race see this article from CalMatters.