Queer candidate will seek Oakland school board seat in 2024

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday November 15, 2023
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Oakland school board candidate Sasha Ritzie-Hernandez, who came up short in last week's special election, plans to run again for the District 5 seat next year. Photo: Courtesy the candidate
Oakland school board candidate Sasha Ritzie-Hernandez, who came up short in last week's special election, plans to run again for the District 5 seat next year. Photo: Courtesy the candidate

Acknowledging she is facing a likely insurmountable deficit in winning her special election for a vacant Oakland school board seat, queer education advocate Sasha Ritzie-Hernandez announced Wednesday that she will seek to be elected to it in 2024.

Ritzie-Hernandez remains in second place in the race for the District 5 seat on the governing body for the Oakland Unified School District. 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 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.

Last Friday, Lerma had stated he was "optimistic about the result" in a post on his campaign's Facebook page. A new vote count posted November 16 didn't change either candidate's share of the tally, though Lerma's lead did shrink to 510 votes.

In a November 15 email to her supporters, Ritzie-Hernandez noted she is "facing a 7.4 percent deficit" and indicated the vote tally is unlikely to swing in her favor when the next count is released.

"Though the numbers may not be in our favor, I want you to know that your support has meant the world to me, and this journey has been a valuable experience," wrote Ritzie-Hernandez.

She has yet to respond to a request for comment from the B.A.R. about the election results. A resident of the city's Fruitvale district who uses both she and they pronouns, Ritzie-Hernandez coordinates the collaborative initiative called the Bay Area Coalition for Education Justice.

She and Lerma had vied 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, while Ritzie-Hernandez had the support of the teachers union and LGBTQ leaders, such as the school board's sole out member, queer District 6 trustee Valarie Bachelor.

The November 7 race was only to finish out Hutchison's term through the end of next year. Thus, the winner will need to seek a full four-year term on next November's ballot.

Noting different district boundaries for the school board seat will be in place for the 2024 race because of the latest redistricting process, Ritzie-Hernandez indicated in her email that the new mix of voters could work to her advantage in the contest. (This year's race used the old district map.)

"Looking forward, I hope I can count on your continued support as we aim to win the majority on our school board in 2024," she wrote. "The 2024 election cycle will bring new boundaries, excluding areas above the 580 highway and both Edna Brewer and Glenview Elementary.

"Thank you once again for your steadfast support. Together, we can continue working towards a brighter future for Oakland schools," Ritzie-Hernandez added.

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