2008 was the first time there was an open seat on the school board, where at least one incumbent was not seeking re-election since 1998. Longtime board member and comic relief Rosemarie Avila was finally retiring to take on Loretta Sanchez in a quixotic run for Congress. Immediately, people began speculating, who will be “the chosen one” by the Santa Ana “powers that be” i.e. Pulido, Richardson and Metzler. So much time was spent speculating on that and speculating on who was running that no one realized the two “chosen ones” were right under our noses, Rob Richardson and Jose Hernandez.
It was obvious from the get go. After all, along with Audrey Noji, those two comprised the “gang of three” who often voted together in unison to keep the status quo in a clearly broken school district. According to a reliable source, Rob Richardson was so arrogant, he was even telling potential candidates in 2008 that it did not matter who got Rosie Avila’s seat, there was still a majority of three. Unfortunately these comments led to wild conspiracy theories of “evil plans” by Richardson and Pulido to rig the election. This only took away I guess in the end they did, but they did it legally and utilized our electoral process to ensure Richardson and Hernandez got re-elected.
When the filing began, it was clear this election was going to be packed with candidates. Besides the remaining two incumbents, there were rumors of about 10 other people running. In the end, nine people ran for three seats on the SAUSD board. A few of the candidates really had no business running in that election, but they were “encouraged” by city leaders to run, some being promised the world if they ran. All the candidates but Rob Richardson were Latino. This alone guaranteed Rob Richardson’s re-election.Â Getting Hernandez back in was going to be a little more challenging, but not much, since he was able to use the word INCUMBENT in his ballot designation, despite this being his first time on the ballot.
Of the seven challengers,Â one, Valerie Amezcua, clearly had an an edge on the others when it came to money and support from major elected officials such as Loretta Sanchez, Lou Correa and the OC Labor Federation while one candidate was blatantly in the race to split the challengers’ votes in order to ensure Richardson and Hernandez’ victories. UnfortunatelyÂ Valerie was in danger of being drowned out by the number of candidates in that race, and in a race that far down the ballot, unfortunately a lot of voters just do not pay attention. This was the case in this election, except there was one monkey wrench that got thrown into Richardson’s plans, a wholesale assault from Planned Parenthood, who got involved in the race as part of their School Board Project. This nearly threw the Mayor’s and Richardson’s plans into disarray.
In the end it was the number of candidates in the race that ultimately saved Richardson and Hernandez from the blistering hit pieces. For the most part, the hit pieces worked, the two incumbents percentage share dropped dramatically on votes that came in on election day. Unfortunately the people who were influenced by those hit pieces NOT TO VOTE for the incumbents threw their vote to the many different candidates in the race, which in part made Pulido’s effort to talk spoilers into the race successful. In Part 2 I will go into how that effort came up short and how the Mayor and Richardson came out victorious and what can be done to beat their machine.