The field of candidates was large, the issues were generally low-key and voter turnout was light Tuesday as 67 school board members were elected in 24 San Gabriel Valley school districts.
In unofficial returns, 16 incumbents were ousted and, in several cases, first-time challengers were the top vote-getters while votes for incumbents were relatively low.
In all, 154 candidates ran for the 67 seats. But despite the number of candidates, there were few major controversies in the campaigns.
In three races, however, candidates were split on hotly contested topics.
Candidates backed by employee unions defeated two incumbents in the San Gabriel School District. In the Garvey District, where a board member who was not up for election campaigned vigorously against fellow board members, two incumbents lost and a third apparently retained his seat by a single vote.
In the Charter Oak Unified School District, a controversial reorganization was at the heart of the school board election.
The county registrar reported only a 10.9% voter turnout countywide. Turnout figures for individual elections were not immediately available. The election results will be official only after the canvassing of votes is completed today, county election officials said.
Here are the results in each district:
San Gabriel Elementary School District
Candidates supported by employee unions won four seats on the five-member San Gabriel school board as voters ousted two incumbents.
Both losing incumbents attributed their defeat in large measure to campaign work by union members.
Elected to four-year terms were Marilyn L. Cooper with 1,265 votes, or 24.1%; Linda L. Jorgensen, 1,084 votes, or 20.6%, and incumbent Dominic Shambra, with 960 votes, or 18.3%.
Trailing were incumbents Eleanor K. Andrews, 855 votes or 16.3%, and Allan P. Donnelly, 654 votes, or 12.4%. Ronald R. St. John, 436 votes, or 8.3%, also trailed.
Voters also filled the remaining two years of the term of board member Joseph Muha, who resigned. Kathryn R. Blankinship received 1,245 votes, or 68.7% to win the seat over Robert F. Gray, with 566 votes, or 31.3%.
"I really feel it (the union effort) made a big difference," said Andrews, who has served on the board for 10 years. She added that she thinks it is unfortunate for unions to play such a decisive role because those who are elected become obligated to the employees. Donnelly said that it is "unhealthy" for employee unions to be so influential, but said it is understandable for employees to protect their own interests.
Jorgensen said the first order of business of the new board would be to consider ending the contract of Supt. Thomas Sullivan, which has another year and a half to run. Both the teachers union and a group of parents have accused Sullivan, who is in his 10th year as superintendent, of having poor communication with parents and employees.
But Shambra said that while "we need to reassess the direction of the district, I'm not sure that voters were saying, 'throw the rascals out.' " He said the superintendent's future with the district will no doubt be discussed but "hopefully, we can keep our heads about us."
Garvey Elementary School District
Two incumbents were defeated and a third won by a single vote in the race for three seats on the Garvey school board.
The lone incumbent to be returned to office was Raul (Tony) Garcia, who received 506 votes, or 13.4%, just one more than challenger Gilbert Barron. A spokeswoman for the registrar of voters office said the result could change, because there may be some absentee ballots that have not yet been counted.
Barron said he will consider asking for a recount.
In addition to Garcia, winners in the race, in which voters elected three board members to four-year terms, were Judy Chu, 771 votes, or 20.4%, and Virginia Gutierrez, 542 votes, or 14.3%.
Trailing were incumbents Carl Van Winkle, 466 votes, or 12.3%, and John Nunez, 375 votes, or 9.9%. Also apparent losers were I. C. Willie, 314 votes, or 8.3%, and Maria Cruz Flores, 309 votes, or 8.2%. The Garvey District, which has 12,565 registered voters, serves parts of Rosemead, Monterey Park and San Gabriel.
Van Winkle said he had "split emotions" over his defeat. He regrets losing his seat, he said, but he won't miss some of the infighting.
The election pitted the three incumbents against a slate of three challengers, Barron, Gutierrez and Willie. Chu, who was affiliated with neither side, led the field by more than 200 votes.
Chu, 32, a college teacher, said she campaigned extensively and said she thought she succeeded because she gave voters "a feeling that I was energetic and I cared."
Gutierrez, 32, an administrative assistant at USC, said the election shows that the voters want a change in the district, since two incumbents lost and the third won by one vote. Garcia, 34, a teacher, said he thinks voters made their choices mostly on the personal qualities of the candidates.
Charter Oak Unified School District