Out Bay Area school candidates await final vote tallies

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday November 8, 2023
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Clay Hale, left, was leading in his San Jose college board race, while Sasha Ritzie-Hernandez was trailing in her Oakland school board race. Photos: Courtesy the candidates
Clay Hale, left, was leading in his San Jose college board race, while Sasha Ritzie-Hernandez was trailing in her Oakland school board race. Photos: Courtesy the candidates

The special elections for education board seats held November 7 in two Bay Area cities brought mixed results for out education leaders Sasha Ritzie-Hernandez and Clay Hale. While Ritzie-Hernandez is trailing in the race for an Oakland school board seat, Hale took the lead on election night in his bid for a community college board seat in San Jose.

They both vied to serve out the terms of former officeholders who resigned after winning election to different positions last November. Both terms run through the end of 2024, meaning the winners of the races need to seek full four-year terms on the November 2024 ballot.

Neither race saw a candidate declare victory Tuesday, as election officials in both Alameda and Santa Clara counties have more ballots to count. Clear winners are likely to emerge once the results in the two races are next updated.

Hale, a gay man, had sought election to the District 7 seat on the body that oversees the San José-Evergreen Community College District in Santa Clara County. The seven-person board currently has no LGBTQ representation on it.

Its seat centered in downtown San Jose is vacant due to gay San Jose City Councilmember Omar Torres resigning from it after being elected to his city's governing body last November. Hale, who works for the East Side Union High School District, was one of five candidates seeking to serve out the remainder of Torres' term through the end of next year.

According to the unofficial returns as of Wednesday morning, Hale landed in first place with 47% percent of the vote. He was leading the second-place finisher, nonprofit education official Lisanna Dominguez, by 749 votes. An updated vote count is expected at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

"As a local teacher, community member, and neighbor, I appreciate your dedication and support. Your encouragement has brought us closer to bringing a teacher's perspective to the San Jose-Evergeen Community College District," Hale wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday night. "We are optimistic about tonight's lead and look forward to election updates tomorrow. Thank you for voting for a teacher."

Anthony Macias, a gay Republican who is a perennial candidate in San Jose, had also run for the college board seat. He is in last place with 209 votes, according to the current tally.

In the East Bay, Ritzie-Hernandez ran for a seat on the Oakland Unified School District board. A resident of the city's Fruitvale district who uses both she and they pronouns, Ritzie-Hernandez was vying to succeed school board member Mike Hutchinson in the District 5 area covering several of Oakland's eastern neighborhoods.

Having been redistricted into the board's District 4 area, Hutchinson ran for the seat last fall. Due to a mix up by the county registrar, transgender married dad Nick Resnick had been declared the winner and sworn into office in January. But faced with a lawsuit over the results, Resnick resigned from the seat and Hutchinson was sworn into office earlier this year.

He backed the other candidate in the District 5 race, retired educator and principal Jorge Lerma. The teachers union supported Ritzie-Hernandez, who last week picked up a late endorsement from the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club, the LGBTQ political group for Alameda County.

The school board's sole LGBTQ member, queer District 6 trustee Valarie Bachelor, had also endorsed Ritzie-Hernandez in the contest. Bachelor won election last year to the oversight body.

According to the unofficial returns as of Wednesday morning, Lerma was in first place with 62% percent of the vote. Ritzie-Hernandez trailed by 553 votes.

The next vote update is expected on Thursday. In a Facebook post Tuesday night, Lerma expressed confidence in winning the seat.

"With 2,100 votes counted (about 7,000 expected) I've gotten 63% of the votes. I'm grateful for the support of so many and will post results as they are shared," he wrote.

Meanwhile, Ritzie-Hernandez thanked her supporters in a Facebook post shortly before the polls closed November 7.

"We ran a clean campaign by keeping our values of integrity, accountability and transparency at the center and our hope is to bring that to the OUSD board," she wrote.

The two local races coincided with a growing concern among LGBTQ leaders across the country about seeing conservative candidates run for school board seats in order to push an anti-LGBTQ agenda. Various races on ballots Tuesday in several states were being closely watched to see if out candidates defeated their anti-LGBTQ opponents.

In California, attention now turns to if a conservative group can qualify a trio of ballot measures attacking the rights of LGBTQ youth for next November's election. As the Bay Area Reporter first reported online November 2, two would rollback protections for trans and nonbinary students at school, while the third would restrict their access to gender-affirming health care.

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