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Trustee's Loss Part of Centrist Trend?

The controversial Anaheim high school board member was too extreme to win a third term, observers say.

November 07, 2002|Claire Luna | Times Staff Writer

It's a sign of the times, say Latino activists and political observers, that an Anaheim school board member who made headlines for proposing to bill foreign countries for the cost of educating illegal immigrants has failed to win a third term.

Harald G. Martin placed fifth in a field of 12 candidates seeking three seats on the Anaheim Union High School District board, according to preliminary election results released Wednesday.

"Harald Martin is someone known -- maybe even nationwide -- for his belligerent and, some would say, outrageous attitudes and actions," said Chapman University political science professor Fred Smoller.

"But the middle winds are blowing through American politics. People who are extremists or are perceived to be extremists don't do well."

Martin, a 47-year-old Anaheim police officer, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. But supporters lamented his defeat and lauded his accomplishments in eight years on the local high school board.

Board President Katherine H. Smith, who lost her bid for state superintendent of public instruction, said Martin is leaving a legacy of concern for children and their success.

"Harald was the driving force behind all the things to change the environment and make it better," Smith said. "He set the pace, and the direction is there. We will pick it up and follow it."

Besides wanting to bill foreign governments for illegal immigrants, a proposal that federal officials refused to enact, Martin suggested a board policy to expel known gang members from district campuses and supported a plan to reinstitute paddling as a form of school discipline.

The board instead voted to ban gang-related attire and behavior. The state Assembly rejected the paddling plan.

Acting as a private citizen, Martin also led a successful effort to place an immigration official in the city jail to deport undocumented arrestees and dumped a ton of manure in a city park in an effort to drive away drug dealers.

"He always had a lot of good ideas and a lot of ideas that upset people," said Robert Stewart, a former district trustee who had often sided with Martin on controversial issues and was elected Tuesday.

"Finally, one outnumbered the other."

Incumbent Thomas Holguin and former Northern California school board member Denise Mansfield-Reinking also took seats.

One of Martin's most vocal opponents -- Anaheim activist Amin David of the League of United Latin American Citizens -- also challenged Martin at the polls Tuesday.

David, who came in 11th with little more than a third of the 11,840 votes Martin collected, said winning was never the point of his own campaign.

"I wanted the opportunity to shout loud and clear about the evil effects that Martin has on the board," David said. "And I have been victorious. The mission was to make sure Harald Martin did not get reelected."

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