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Orange County

Rancorous Race Ends for Orange Unified

November 06, 2001|DANIEL YI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The next chapter of political back-and-forth on the Orange Unified school board opens at polling booths today.

Voters in the Orange Unified School District will make their second decision in five months about the future of the 30,000-student district. They will either retain and perhaps enlarge a recent majority in the board of trustees, or go back to the old board, whose members accuse the teachers union of trying to take over the school system.

In June, a recall campaign backed by many teachers and a group of parents unseated three trustees in the previous board majority and shifted the balance of power in the school district.

Now, two of the recalled members are trying for a comeback while their opponents seek to solidify their majority by voting out two remaining members of the old majority.

The Orange race is one of two elections in the county today. Voters in Stanton will decide whether to continue a utility tax, which provides nearly $1.7 million to the city coffers every year.

In the rancorous Orange election, candidates and their supporters raced to the finish line over the weekend with a flurry of fliers and mailers.

Teachers' salaries and benefits have long been a contentious issue in the district. The former board majority said it fought against union demands in order to keep the district solvent. Teachers complained the trustees had little respect for them. Many parents sided with the teachers and started the recall.

Four of the seven seats in the Board of Education are up for election today. Orange Unified trustees are elected from each of seven district areas.

Recalled trustees Linda Davis and Martin Jacobson are seeking to reclaim their old seats from Kathy Moffat and Melissa Smith.

Trustees Terri Sargeant and Kathy Ward, members of the old majority, are facing challenges from Kimberlee Nichols and former trustee Rick Ledesma, who are backed by the teachers union and their supporters.

Alan Irish, an accountant, is also running for Ward's seat, and retired engineer Edward Priegel is running for Sargeant's seat. Irish and Priegel have declared themselves alternative candidates in the dispute between the two camps.

In Stanton, Measure A, if passed, will allow the city to continue assessing a 5% utility tax that has funded services such as the fire and police departments for nine years. A recent state Supreme Court decision requires the city to put the measure to voters.

Information on polling sites: Registrar of Voters, (714) 567-7600 or http://www.oc.ca.gov/election

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