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Woolery-Stanton Race Goes to the Wire

The incumbent faces a tough test in Trustee Area 3. In the other contested race, incumbent Rocha holds a big lead over challenger Moreno.


In one of the tightest elections on the Orange County ballot, incumbent Eric H. Woolery and former educator Joanne L. Stanton were running neck-and-neck in a race for a seat on the Orange County Board of Education.

At one point early on in the ballot counting Wednesday morning, election results showed the two were separated by a few dozen votes.

Two of three open Orange County Board of Education seats were contested, with candidates competing for the chance to form policy on issues including improving education for troubled children in correctional facilities, running alternative schools and programs and managing state and federal dollars.

The board provides support services to the county's 29 public school districts, but it has no authority over them. Rather, it is a liaison between those districts and the state and federal governments.

It also runs a variety of alternative schools and programs, serving students who are in the corrections system and those who are home-schooled.

One of the board's more outspoken members, Ken L. Williams Jr., had no challenger in Trustee Area 4, which covers the Fullerton, La Habra, Brea Olinda, Orange, Tustin, Irvine, Saddleback Valley and Capistrano districts.

In Trustee Area 3, which covers Buena Park, Anaheim, Placentia, Yorba Linda and Orange, Stanton challenged Woolery.

Stanton is past president of the Orange County School Boards Assn., spent 19 years on the Anaheim board and has been involved in numerous educational organizations.

Stanton said she purposely targeted Woolery's seat to further her goal of promoting career programs available to students in county programs, an area in which she and her opponent have disagreed.

Woolery, who was elected to the board on a back-to-basics platform in 1996, has said the primary task facing the board is to seek innovative ways to serve youths in its corrections schools, helping those students return quickly to regular schools.

In Trustee Area 1, which covers Santa Ana, Garden Grove, Fountain Valley and Westminster, incumbent Felix Rocha Jr. held a comfortable lead over challenger Jose Luis Moreno.

With most absentee ballots counted, Rocha had won 67.3% of the vote to Moreno's 32.3%.

Rocha, who ran a low-key campaign, said he had not paid close attention to early results.

"I'm happy with that, but it's still early," Rocha said of the initial figures. "I'm not nervous, however. If the good Lord wants me there, He'll put me there."

If Rocha wins, he said his goals for his third term are accountability and standards. In particular, he wants to keep a closer watch on money funneled through the county to the districts, to be sure it is spent appropriately. He especially would like to establish a county inspector general office.

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