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4 Seek to Replace School Recall Target

One candidate for Nativo Lopez's seat in Santa Ana is a former councilman and trustee.

November 22, 2002|Daniel Yi | Times Staff Writer

Four people, including a former city councilman who also served as a school trustee, filed candidacy papers Thursday to replace Santa Ana school board member Nativo Lopez in the event he is recalled in a special election early next year.

Robert L. Richardson, who served on the school board in the late 1980s before winning two City Council terms in Santa Ana, brings name recognition and clout to the contest as it heads to a Feb. 4 showdown.

The other candidates are Vivian Martinez, a district mother and one of the original petitioners to recall Lopez; Cindy Pettus, a community college instructor; and John Raya, a former boxer who runs a youth boxing academy in Santa Ana. All four filed Thursday just hours before the 5 p.m. deadline.

The special election will cost Santa Ana Unified about $100,000, officials said.

Voters will decide whether Lopez, who is serving his second four-year term, should be recalled. They also must choose a replacement from among the four because both questions must be answered for a ballot to count, according to the county's registrar of voters.

Lopez's opponents have called him a divisive force in the community and accused him of promoting bilingual education in violation of state law in the mostly Latino district of 62,000 students. Lopez, who denies doing anything illegal, says he is being targeted for defending the rights of Latino students and their working-class families.

The bitter recall effort colored the regular school board election earlier this month, as trustees John Palacio and Nadia Maria Davis, seen as Lopez's allies on the five-member board, also were targeted by recall supporters. Palacio won reelection, but Davis lost to former board member Audrey Y. Noji. Two candidates backed by many of the recall supporters and City Hall leaders, Lupe Moreno and Oscar Garza, also lost, coming in third and fifth, respectively.

Richardson, 41, a senior administrative manager for the county and a Santa Ana planning commissioner, said Thursday that he wants Lopez's seat because he has become increasingly concerned about the pace of school construction in the overcrowded district.

The district won a $145-million construction bond in 1999 and is preparing to build or expand several campuses.

"It is unbelievable that after three years, we have yet to add a single classroom," said Richardson, a supporter of the measure.

Lopez could not be reached for comment Thursday. But he and Palacio have blamed the pace of construction on a scarcity of land in Santa Ana. Lopez has also said the recall effort is fueled by opponents of a proposed new elementary school in the relatively affluent northern end of the city.

Richardson said Thursday that if he were to take over Lopez's seat, he would call for a review of that proposed school site. "I don't believe that is where a school is most needed," he said.

Opponents of the plan argue that the new campus will bring disruptive traffic to their tranquil streets. Lopez says they don't want low-income Latino children in their neighborhood.

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