Gay teacher wins Santa Clara college board race

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday November 13, 2023
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Clay Hale has declared victory in a Santa Clara County community college district race. Photo: Courtesy Clay Hale<br>
Clay Hale has declared victory in a Santa Clara County community college district race. Photo: Courtesy Clay Hale

San Jose teacher Clay Hale has won a vacant seat on a Santa Clara County college board. He returns LGBTQ representation to it and will now need to seek a full four-year term on the November 2024 ballot.

Hale, a gay man, ran for the District 7 seat on the seven-person board that oversees the San José-Evergreen Community College District in the South Bay. Centered in downtown San Jose, it became vacant due to the resignation of gay San Jose City Councilmember Omar Torres, who won election to his city's governing body last November.

One of five candidates seeking to serve out the remainder of Torres' term through the end of next year, Hale took the top spot on election night with 47% of ballots cast and has maintained that share of the vote ever since. According to the latest returns posted by the county registrar Monday afternoon, Hale's total vote count now stands at 2,882. (A new update is expected Tuesday by 4:30 p.m.)

He now leads second-place finisher, nonprofit education official Lisanna Dominguez, by 848 votes. Anthony Macias, a gay Republican who is a perennial candidate in San Jose, remains in last place with 234 votes, according to the unofficial tally.

Hale, 28, who works for the East Side Union High School District, will be sworn into his seat December 12. He had declared victory in a Facebook post last Friday afternoon.

"Because of you and your hard work — from the day we launched our campaign to election night — we now have a teacher's voice at the table advocating for the education all our students deserve," wrote Hale. "Our campaign was driven by our commitment to prioritize the needs and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff above all else. I am grateful and humbled by your support."

Speaking to the Bay Area Reporter Monday, Hale said he would stand for election next fall for the full term. A first-time candidate with little name recognition in this year's race, he said his being an out educator who will be a strong advocate for the college district's LGBTQ students, staff and faculty really resonated with voters at a time when anti-LGBTQ groups are attacking school policies supportive of the LGBTQ community.

"We are really excited our community gave an opportunity for a teacher to create a more equitable education opportunity for students," said Hale, who was joined on the call by his partner of eight years, Jonathan Cruz Ishii, a former teacher who now works in the ed tech sector.

Oakland race results

Meanwhile, queer family advocate Sasha Ritzie-Hernandez remains in second place in her race for a seat on the Oakland Unified School District board. She has trailed since election night behind retired educator and principal Jorge Lerma.

The Alameda County registrar has yet to update the vote tally in the contest since last doing so on Thursday. At that time, Lerma remained in the lead with 57% and Ritzie-Hernandez was at 42.60% of the vote, though her deficit had declined slightly to 517 votes.

Friday morning Lerma posted, "We remain optimistic about the result and immensely grateful for each of your efforts."

The candidates are 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.

Hutchinson was then sworn into office earlier this year. He backed Lerma to succeed him in the District 5 seat.

The teachers union supported Ritzie-Hernandez, a resident of the city's Fruitvale district who uses both she and they pronouns. Also backing her candidacy were the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club, the LGBTQ political group for Alameda County, and the school board's sole LGBTQ member, queer District 6 trustee Valarie Bachelor, who was elected last year.

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