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Incumbents Strickland, MacGregor lead in Hart, COC board races

McGrath wins Newhall school board bid but will resign; Atkins tops Newhall Water race

Posted: November 3, 2009 11:54 p.m.
Updated: November 4, 2009 4:55 a.m.

College of the Canyons Board imcumbent Joan MacGregor, right, applauds as Vanessa Wilk, left, reads her the early returns at her campaign party at Mulligans Restaurant on Tuesday. John Dow, middle, looks on.

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Incumbent Paul Strickland and CPA Bob Jensen were the front-runners in the race to fill three seats on the William S. Hart Union High School District board in Tuesday’s election, with Joe Messina edging Suzan Solomon for the third open seat, and Linda Valdes trailing the field in the final tally.

“I want to finish things that were left undone,” said Strickland, the only one of three current board members who ran for reelection.

Jensen, who is finishing his first term on the Newhall School District board, campaigned heavily on his background as a certified public accountant.

“At this stage of the game, I’m very pleased with the results,” he said at about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. But he added, guardedly, “It’s a long night. There’s a lot more votes to come in.”

Messina and Solomon remained optimistic after the early returns, but Valdes soon appeared all but out of the running.

Meanwhile, in the race for two seats on the Santa Clarita Community College District board, businessman and longtime College of the Canyons Foundation board member Michael Berger and incumbent Joan MacGregor defeated their opponents.

Hart District:
The atmosphere on the side patio of The Roast House in Saugus, where Messina was holding his election night party, was subdued but celebratory as early returns placed the three-time candidate among the leaders.

While Messina studied returns on a laptop computer, his friend Hunt Braly grabbed him by the back of the neck and grinned, whispering in his ear, “I don’t care if it’s even by one vote.”

Other friends also congratulated Messina on his expected win.

By late Tuesday, he was leading Suzan Solomon by about 400 votes, and he said he was guardedly optimistic his lead would hold up.
Messina said he hopes to serve on the board to bring a high school to Castaic and advocate for vocational education.

“Nobody is pushing (vocational) education,” he said. “Someone needs to be there pushing away at it so it stays at the forefront in the district.”

Solomon said she was a little surprised to see herself in fourth place, but remained hopeful as the votes came in.

“It’s just not over until the last vote is counted,” she said.

In the final count, Messina led Solomon by 250 votes, 6,412 to 6,162.

College of the Canyons:
Berger and his campaign volunteers celebrated at Una Mas Tuesday as early election results showed him with a 20 percentage point lead over Brian Koegle for seat No. 1 in the Santa Clarita Community College District.

Berger was cautiously optimistic, refusing to claim victory even with a 1,500-vote advantage over Koegle, who sat comfortably in second in the four-person race. Berger credited Koegle for running a tough campaign. At the time only 28.8 percent of the voting precincts had reported.

“I felt threatened the whole time,” Berger said.

Supporters swarmed their candidate and congratulated Berger as the results rolled in. Berger said the voters chose to focus on his strengths as a candidate.

“I think my experience is what the public saw as an advantage,” Berger said.

Berger's margin over Koegle in the final vote was 22 1/2 percentage points. 

In early returns, seat No. 3 incumbent MacGregor was solidly ahead of challenger Randy Moberg, leading him 4,679 votes to 2,376.

MacGregor said the apparently decisive win signaled voter satisfaction for the district’s board.

“I feel we’ve done an excellent job and the voters saw that,” she said.

Moberg, meanwhile, said he felt his opponent won simply because she’s an incumbent.

“I expected to be behind at this point, with those long (Congressman Howard “Buck”) McKeon coattails that MacGregor rides,” he said. “Incumbents get automatic endorsements whether they deserve them or not. And you can quote me on that.”

He added this was his first run and he’s learned a lot, but isn’t sure whether he’ll run again.

When all the votes were in, MacGregor's tally was 7,700 votes (64.33 percent) to Moberg's 4,269 votes (35.67 percent).

Newhall School District:
Early returns had Michael McGrath, a Newhall School District board incumbent, in the lead — despite the fact he dropped out of the race in September.

McGrath said if he is elected, he will immediately resign, citing family circumstances. This would lead to an appointment process, with the remaining board members selecting a replacement.

McGrath credited his apparent win to name recognition, as he is an incumbent and his father was superintendent of the district for 25 years.

With all precincts reporting, the top three vote-getters in the race were McGrath with 2,222 votes (22.72 percent), Christy L. Smith with 2,185 votes (22.34 percent) and Philip C. Ellis Jr. with 2,057 votes (21.03 percent). Craig Duswalt, with 1,895 votes (19.37 percent), and K. Scott Miller with 1,423 votes (14.55 percent), placed fourth and fifth.

Newhall County Water District:
Michael Cruz, one of four candidates for three seats on the Newhall County Water District board, appeared to be the odd man out, according to early returns.

He found himself down nearly 200 votes to Kathleen Colley after absentee ballot results were announced at 8 p.m. The deficit didn’t dampen Cruz’s hopes to win the race.

“I’m feeling cautiously optimistic,” he said. “I think we are going to make up the deficit at the polls.”

Cruz chatted with voters after they left polling places Tuesday and said many of them said they cast their vote for the first-time water board candidate.

“We won’t know until 11:30 (p.m.),” he said.

In the end, it was bad news for Cruz, as B.J. Atkins, Maria Gutzeit and Colley won the most votes and filled the three seats.


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