SANTA CLARITA — Capping an unusually costly and contentious campaign, three challengers took an early lead Tuesday in the race for the Newhall County Water District board, a small entity that provides water to about 10% of the Santa Clarita Valley.
With more than a third of the votes counted, Tom Campbell, Barbara Dore and Val Thomas led Edwin Dunn, Lynne Plambeck and David Rapoport, all of whom are completing their first four-year term on the five-member board.
Despite its size--at 6,500 customers, the valley's third-largest--the Newhall board has special standing because it is the only valley water agency with a fully elected board. Developers seeking continued building in the expanding area--especially the Newhall Land & Farming Co., initiator of the massive Newhall Ranch proposal between the Golden State Freeway and the Ventura County line--must first secure an adequate water supply from a water board.
The challengers spent nearly $34,000 through Oct. 18 compared with the incumbents' nearly $6,000, according to county figures. Emphasizing their opponents' spending, which was more than double the suggested limits set in accordance with the campaign financing measure Proposition 208, the incumbents portrayed them as mere pawns of Newhall Land. The challengers dismissed those claims, insisting that they were running to improve water quality and the district's finances.
Very early returns were also in for the four other Santa Clarita Valley races Tuesday.
In the Castaic Union School District, challengers Gregory Ferrier and Wendy Gingrich and incumbent Irene Massey led challengers Carl Seel and incumbents Nora Emmons and Dirk Gosda for three open board seats.
The Saugus Union School District saw incumbent Judy Umeck and challengers Gary Murr and Jonathan Myl leading incumbent Eileen Connolly and challenger Douglas Bryce in a battle for three spots.
William S. Hart Union High School District voters favored incumbent Patricia Hanrion and challengers Dennis King and Gloria Mercado.
The Santa Clarita Community College District had two governing board seats on the ballot. One belongs to unopposed incumbent Joan MacGregor. The other was on the way to being claimed by challenger Ernie Tichenor.
Only absentee ballot results were available for Antelope and San Fernando Valley races, representing a fraction of the total votes.
Those absentee results showed Mayor Jim Ledford taking a sizable lead on Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Kevin Wright Carney and paralegal George Wolfe.
City Council incumbent Terence P. Judge, led all candidates in his bid for another term. There were nine candidates for seats being vacated by Judge and Jim Root: Lynne Van Trieste Cory, Sandy Corrales, Al Beattie, Timothy J. Jackson, Alan L. Lee Jr., Paul A. Senia, Dante Simi, Shelley Sorsabal and Jeff Storm. Sorsabal was behind Judge for the second seat.
Other races being decided Tuesday:
Among five candidates were vying for three open seats on the Palmdale school board. Incumbents Sheldon Epstein, Frederick Thompson and Velma M. Trosin were opposed by Connie Petit and Barbara Walsh.
Water district voters decided the fate of Measure X, a proposal that would change the way members of the board of directors are elected. The measure's passage would require candidates to secure a majority in each of the district's divisions, as well as in the district as a whole.
The water district board also had two spots up for election. Incumbent Nolan D. Negaard faced newcomer Wayne Marshall, while incumbent Ronald D. Cunningham ran unopposed.
Elsewhere in the Antelope Valley, there were eight candidates for three open seats on the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District board. Incumbents Fred Fate, Martin Barofsky and Rebecca Small squared off against Mark Nielsen, Ann Franz, Steven D. Harbeson, Patty Knechtli and Andrea D. Mathews.
Residents of both Los Angeles and Kern counties had a say in the Antelope Valley Community College District Governing Board race. Incumbents James Valentine DuPratt Jr., H.E. Kicenski and Betty Lou Nash were competing with six challengers: Michael Adams, Michael R. Adams, David L. Edmonson, John A. Mayfield, Betty J. Wienke and Michael Williams.
Three seats on the Antelope Valley Union High School District board were open. Incumbents Steve Landaker, William Olenick and Sue Stokka faced challengers Yolanda Deschene, Deanna A. Larson, Brett Nelson and Wayne Woodhall.
Eastside Union School District officials in Lancaster hoped voters approve Measure S, a $15.5-million bond issue that would fund the construction of a new middle school and elementary school. Officials say those facilities would ease overcrowding that has forced 2,200 students into space originally intended for 1,300.
Three Eastside Governing Board positions were being contested by incumbents Martha D. Johnson and Willard Ritchie and challengers Charles Cooke and Ann Harris.