All incumbent school board members retained their seats Tuesday except in the Saugus Union School District where first-time challenger Stephen S. Winkler upset three-term incumbent Rose Diaz.
In the Newhall School District, voters handily approved Measure E, a $60 million school construction and technology bond. Needing just 55 percent to pass, the measure led by 66.28 percent to 33.72 percent in the final election-night tally.
Late absentees and provisional votes remain to be counted, but no local race is tight enough for them to change the outcome.
Bruce Fortine, a founding College of the Canyons board member, defeated rival Diana Shaw by 52.89 percent to 47.11 percent for Seat 4 in the Santa Clarita Community College District, while incumbent Scott Wilk bested his opponent, Patrick Hill, by a 52.93 to 47.07 percent margin.
For a while, the Hart School District race was too close to call as early returns came in Tuesday evening. But by the end of the night, incumbents Gloria Mercado-Fortine and Steve Sturgeon held onto their seats with 34.96 and 33.11 percent of the vote, respectively. First-time challenger Heather Davis slipped out of the running with 31.93 percent, 210 votes behind Sturgeon (5,877 to 5,667).
Similarly, incumbents Rochelle Weinstein (42.64 percent) and Denis DeFigueiredo (31.87 percent) overcame a challenge from Priscilla Lofton (25.49 percent) in the Sulphur Springs Union School District.
Overall, it was a typical, low-turnout school board election. Countywide, just 12.04 percent of registered voters cast ballots. A majority of those ballots – 104,655 of 188,595 – were sent by mail.
In Newhall, the Measure E campaign sailed to victory in the absence of any organized opposition. The measure took an early lead in the absentee tabulation and never looked back. In fact, while results often tighten for bond measures on election day, Measure E’s margin of victory widened, perhaps a result of weekend phone banking by volunteers who reminded already-identified “yes” voters to go to the polls.
All local school board seats are nonpartisan positions, but party politics played a role in several contests.
In the race for COC board, Hill challenged Wilk on the basis of the latter’s intent to seek the Republican nomination for Assembly next year, which would force the college board to call a new election or make a mid-term appointment. A part-time college instructor who moved to Santa Clarita earlier this year, Hill won the support of Republican activists friendly to one of Wilk’s prospective Assembly opponents, Patricia McKeon.
The same Republican groups rallied for Fortine in his race against Democratic activist Diana Shaw – and for Fortine’s wife, Gloria, in her bid to retain her Hart board seat.
Election night found Hart incumbent Sturgeon celebrating his victory with Wilk at developer Larry Rasmussen’s offices while the Fortines watched the returns with Wilk’s opponent, Hill, at Robinson Ranch.
In Saugus, Winkler, a substitute teacher in Los Angeles and a longtime California Democratic Party activist, recently changed his political stripes and, along with Diaz, picked up the endorsement of local Republican groups that pushed to oust Rose Koscielny, the board’s lone Democrat. The effort backfired. Winkler won a seat with 34.4 percent of the vote – but it was Diaz’s seat. Koscielny finished first with 36.8 percent and Diaz (28.8 percent) was knocked out.
The teachers union went one-for-two in Saugus, where it backed Koscielny and Diaz, but it cleaned up in Sulphur Springs, where its candidates Weinstein and DeFigueiredo spurred Republican activists’ efforts to elect Lofton.