Teacher unions scored smashing victories Tuesday in four focal Orange County races.
The surprisingly strong union wins came in elections marked by a sparse voter turnout and scattered problems with a new balloting system.
In the most heated campaign, the faculty union in south Orange County's Saddleback Community College District ousted two incumbents and elected two union-endorsed candidates. The union candidate also was leading in a third race in that district in which no incumbent was running.
In the Tustin Unified School District, where teachers in October staged a six-day strike, union-backed candidates defeated two incumbent board members.
In Coast Community College District, in the Costa Mesa-Huntington Beach area, two union-backed candidates swept to easy victories.
And in Huntington Beach Union High School District, three candidates endorsed by the teacher unions also won overwhelmingly, and thus gained a voting majority on the five-member school board.
The union's triumph in the Coast Community College District completed a dumping of the old board. The union in 1983 was successful in electing three candidates to the five-member board.
According to the registrar's office, only about 11% of the county's registered voters went to the polls. And some of those who did vote faced problems in some precincts. About 150 of the county's new devices for marking election choices failed to operate correctly in various precincts.
"Probably a few number of people didn't get to vote that wanted to," said county Registrar of Voters Al Olson.
In other election results Tuesday:
Mission Viejo voters approved their own community services district, the first move toward possible cityhood.
Santa Ana voters reelected two school board incumbents, Mary J. Pryer and James A. Richards. Latino groups' hopes of electing the school board's first Latino member since 1978 were crushed as their candidates fared poorly at the polls.
Fundamentalist-endorsed school board candidates in Capistrano Unified and Saddleback Valley Unified failed to oust incumbent board members.
Placentia voters approved a charter amendment to make city elections coincide with state and federal elections.
In Brea, voters informed the City Council, by an advisory vote, that they want fireworks to be banned in the city.
Husband-wife teams of candidates failed to win election in four Orange County school board races.
Incumbents Shirley A. Ralston and Carol Enos won reelection in Rancho Santiago Community College District.
North Orange County Community College District voters elected veteran Cypress Councilman Otto J. Lacayo and Barry J. Wishart, an attorney, as new trustees. Incumbents weren't seeking reelection in those races.
The union-versus-incumbents battles had sparked the most political interest in the off-year election. In most elections in conservative Orange County, union strength is not formidable. But in recent school board elections, teacher unions have been showing increasing power to get rid of board members they don't like and replace them with their own candidates.
This trend took giant steps forward in Tuesday's races. The teacher unions' showing in south Orange County, which surveys have shown to be the county's most wealthy and politically conservative area, was particularly surprising.
Saddleback Community College District, which governs Saddleback College in Mission Viejo and Irvine Valley College in Irvine, has been torn apart for more than two years by a faculty union dispute with the incumbent seven-member board of trustees. A key issue has been the district's chief executive, Chancellor Larry Stevens. The union has accused Stevens of wasting money on "administrative frills" and of being dictatorial. The union sought his firing, but the incumbent board stoutly defended Stevens.
After unsuccessfully seeking to recall three of the incumbent trustees earlier this year, the union this fall endorsed Joan J. Hueter against incumbent William Watts and Marcia Milchiker against incumbent Robert L. Price. In a third race, incumbent Eugene McKnight didn't run for reelection. The union backed Iris Swanson for McKnight's seat; Mike Eggers, an aide to U. S. Rep. Ron Packard (R-Carlsbad) criticized the union's tactics and ran as a pro-administration candidate.
Hueter, who is an athletic director in Anaheim's Katella High, defeated Watts. Milchiker, a research biologist, defeated Price. Swanson held a consistent lead Tuesday night over Eggers. Other candidates in those races trailed the leaders.
In the Coast Community College District race, Walter Howald, an attorney who won the faculty union's endorsement, easily won election in a race in which the incumbent didn't seek reelection. In the other trustee race at Coast, incumbent Richard E. Olson was defeated by Sherry L. Baum, who had the union's backing.