The Garvey Elementary school board race, which pitted two incumbents and five challengers against each other in a bitter campaign, ended in victory for one incumbent and defeat for the other.
Winning reelection was Jim Smith, 51, of Rosemead, who came in first with 935 votes, or 31%. Incumbent Robert Miranda, 34, also of Rosemead, came in fourth, losing to Diane Martinez, 34, of Monterey Park. Martinez collected 825 votes, or 28%, to Miranda's 294 votes, or 10%.
"That's what happens when you fight a city councilman and a congressman--you lose," said Miranda, referring to Martinez, daughter of Rep. Matthew Martinez (D-Montebello), who, along with Smith, had the support of Rosemead Councilman Robert Bruesch.
Throughout the campaign, Martinez, who had many of the same supporters as Smith, was highly critical of Miranda. Martinez said that in her dealings with the board as a parent, she had found him to be insensitive to the needs of students and the community.
Martinez also reminded voters that during Miranda's first term, he had been ordered to reimburse the district after it was discovered that he had charged $90 in alcoholic beverages to his district-issued credit card. Miranda said that the drinks were consumed when a group of board members and the superintendent went out together after a conference and were a legitimate expense.
Meanwhile, Miranda raised questions about Smith's integrity. Smith had been accused by another candidate, John Nunez, of a conflict of interest for voting to approve a summer program in which his wife was a teacher's aide. Miranda raised this issue throughout the campaign and asked for a county counsel investigation.
Martinez, who ran on a promise to make the board more accessible to parents, said Tuesday night that accessibility was still her first priority.
"I want to welcome the community back to the board," she said. "A lot of people had stopped going to board meetings because they found it useless. They weren't being heard. . . I think we just had a bad seed there that was like a cancer. Now that he's been cut out, I think we'll be able to work together."
Smith would not predict what effect Miranda's defeat would have on the board. "That's something you kind of have to wait and see," he said.
But board member Judy Chu said the change would have a marked impact: "I think the school board can finally get back to taking care of business, taking care of the kids. Mr. Miranda had a personal vendetta against many people in the district and he stepped way out of bounds."
Miranda said he thought he had accomplished a lot during his four-year term. "I've had a very good tenure," he said. "I've got a lot of programs in. I've done a lot for the kids and the parents."
Miranda said he hopes the board will address Garvey's last year's performance on the California Assessment Program tests, which was low compared to other districts. "If they don't do something with that, then we're back where we started," said Miranda, who said that improving those scores would be his top priority.
He also said that he did not plan to stay involved in district affairs.
Smith said his main concern is lessening the effects of statewide budget cuts on the quality of education in the district, which serves parts of Rosemead, Monterey Park and San Gabriel.
"My priorities haven't changed," he said.
Of the other candidates, Elizabeth Diaz came in third with with 468 votes, or 16%; Miranda was fourth, Cathy Barron was fifth with 196 votes, or 7%; Mike Bender was sixth with 86 votes, or 3%, and Nunez was seventh with 80 votes, or just less than 3%.
The names of two candidates who had dropped out of the race also appeared on the ballot. Anne Cusick received 56 votes and Marti Armstrong received 35 votes, primarily from absentee voters.