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UPDATE: SCV off-year elections: 1 upset in school race; three slates of incumbents return to office

Lone newcomer to be seated on Sulphur Springs School District board

Posted: November 6, 2013 12:23 p.m.
Updated: November 6, 2013 5:40 p.m.

SANTA CLARITA - With no hotly debated issues and just four races on the ballot in Santa Clarita Valley’s off-year election Tuesday, voters handed one school board member his walking papers but re-elected three other slates of incumbents — some by a wide margin.

Voters who live in the Newhall, Sulphur Springs and Saugus Union school districts, along with those in the Newhall County Water District, cast ballots in Tuesday’s election, which drew a sparse turnout. Each district had three incumbents seeking re-election and one or two challengers.

Balloting was canceled due to lack of challengers in local elections that generally draw more attention, such as the College of the Canyons and William S. Hart Union High School District boards.

Sulphur Springs
The top vote-getter in the Sulphur Springs School District race was challenger Ken Chase. He bested three incumbents in the Canyon Country school district and unseated board member Michael P. Hogan by 268 votes.

Chase garnered 1,263 votes — the most of any candidate running in the district — according to the Los Angeles County Office of Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.

Chase said he is looking forward to working with the other board members, particularly in areas of finance where he feels his professional background as an accountant will help the district as it navigates out of the recent recession.

“I want to work in concert with them,” he said. “I think I have some ideas that make sense in the long-term for the district.”

Incumbent Lori MacDonald placed second in the school board race with 1,140 votes, while fellow incumbent Kerry Clegg came in third with 1,039.

In an interview with The Signal Tuesday, MacDonald said she thought Chase’s campaign strategy played a major role in his election victory.

“He ran a true political campaign, so I think he got his name out there more than any of us,” she said. “He invested the most money into it.”

Hogan finished in fourth place with 995 votes, losing a seat he has held since 2000. Reached by phone Wednesday, Hogan said he thinks he didn’t campaign as much as he could have but that the district is in good hands moving forward.

“I think Lori and Ken will do a great job,” he said. “And I’m glad that Dr. Clegg will remain on the board; he’s been a great asset to the district.”

Hogan said one of the things he is most proud of during his tenure on the board is the recent technological upgrades to classrooms throughout the district.

“I still care about the kids in the district and I still care about a lot of issues in our community, so I’ll stay involved in the community,” he said, adding he has no plans at this time to run in the next school board election.

Saugus Union
In the Saugus Union School District, Chris Trunkey came within 49 votes of incumbent Douglas A. Bryce, who narrowly avoided going the way of Hogan. Fellow incumbents Judy Umeck, with 2,328 votes, and Paul De La Cerda, with 2,078, fared better than did Bryce, and all three will return to office.

Bryce won 1,678 votes for re-election; Trunkey had 1,629.

Asked if he thought the scandal involving Saugus Union board member Stephen Winkler had anything to do with the close call, Bryce said he believed it was a factor in Trunkey’s strong showing.

Winkler, a newcomer to local politics, won election over an incumbent in November 2011. In June his seat was declared vacant amid allegations he didn’t live in the district, which came on the heels of online revelations indicating he was sympathetic to Nazis and approved of abusing animals.

“I think that was an issue, and I think that caused some concern,” Bryce said of the Winkler issue. “I’m kind of surprised (voters) took it out on their current board because we had nothing to do with” Winkler’s election, he said.

Bryce said he was ready to go back to work on major issues facing the district, including adopting Common Core State Standards and adapting to the state’s new school funding formulas.

“We have a lot of challenges, and because of that you really need experience on the board,” said the veteran member.

“I congratulate Judy, Paul and Doug and I thank all of my supporters,” Trunkey said. “I hope everybody will support our school district.” He said he had not decided if he would run again.

Newhall schools
The trio of incumbents in the Newhall School District swept to victory by a comfortable margin Tuesday.

Incumbent Christy Smith paced the field with 1,733 votes.

Fellow incumbents Phil Ellis and Brian Walters came in second and third with 1,562 votes and 1,547 votes, respectively.

Smith said late Tuesday that she thinks the three incumbents receiving the most votes is a validation of their work.

“I think we’re certainly proud of the progress that the district has made and it’s a vote of confidence for us,” she said.

The challenger in the Newhall district, Sandra Bull, came in fourth with 1,328 votes.

Newhall County Water District
The story was much the same in the Newhall County Water District, where the three incumbents — Maria Gutzeit, B.J. Atkins and Kathy Colley — all won re-election.

Gutzeit led the field with 1,089 votes with Atkins close behind at 1,047.

“I think that people are aware that the water district has been fighting for our ratepayers, and we’ve certainly taken a strong position on issues such as a common-sense solution to chloride,” she said Wednesday.

“I feel the district and our staff personify what people want in local government; they are accessible, honest and credible,” said the water board president.

Asked about her previously announced interest in running for the Santa Clarita City Council in April, Gutzeit said it was a tough choice but one she will make by the end of this month.

Atkins said he was “humbled to be able to serve the voters of the Newhall County Water District for another four years.”

Colley’s 939 votes were enough to top challenger Carl Puckett, who received 897.

The results from precinct and mail-in ballots are considered “semi-final official results”; county officials estimated Tuesday that about 29,382 ballots still need to be processed.

That estimate includes outstanding provisional and mail ballots collected at the polls, as well as mailed ballots received by 8 p.m. Tuesday, according to the news release.

Final election results including those still uncounted on Tuesday must be certified by the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. After that, they must be declared official by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.



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