Few challengers in school board races

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More than half of this year’s Santa Clarita Valley school board “races” have candidates running unopposed, according to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder.

All six candidates in the Castaic Union and Sulphur Springs school districts will claim their seats without the need for an election due to a lack of challengers, according to election records. College of the Canyon’s Michael Berger will also go unchallenged.

Friday was the last day for prospective candidates to file their paperwork to run in the upcoming November election, prompting multiple Santa Clarita Valley residents to declare their intentions to run for various school board positions.

The William S. Hart Union High School District’s Cherise Moore will have no challengers in the November election, but the other two seats up for grabs are both expected to be hotly contested races.

Incumbent Joe Messina will be challenged by Jeff Martin and Kelly Trunkey, while Bob Jensen, the incumbent for trustee area No. 2, will be challenged by Donna Robert and Chris Werth.

In the Newhall School District, Brian Walters and Isaiah Talley will claim their seats in the wake of no opposition, but Larry Heath and Donna Rose will each seek a chance to represent trustee area No. 2 on the Newhall board, since Christy Smith will run for 18th District State Assembly seat, according L.A. County records.

The school board races of Saugus will be observed closely by interested parties, as Laura Arrowsmith, a veteran Hart district teacher, will challenge Saugus board member Judy Umeck for the opportunity to represent the district’s area No. 2, while Sharlene Duzick will challenge Christopher Trunkey, the current trustee of area No. 5, according to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder.

Paul De La Cerda has not filed his papers declaring his candidacy, but three local challengers — David Barlavi, Jesus Henao and Evan Patlian — have.

Since Newhall’s Phil Ellis and De La Cerda did not file as a candidate by the close of business on Aug. 10, the candidate filing period for their particular office will be extended another five calendar days and end at the close of business on Wednesday, Aug. 15, Ellis said. The eligible incumbent will not be permitted to file during the extended candidate filing period.

This year will be the first time most board members have had to campaign in a district, rather than running an at-large campaign, as the method by which school board members were elected changed in the beginning in 2016 after the election system and its practices were challenged in a lawsuit under the California Voting Rights Act​.

The lawsuit was settled, and every district in the SCV implemented by-trustee area elections, meaning members of the board would now be elected to represent specific areas.

In addition to implementing by-trustee areas, the districts eliminated the numbered-seat trustee election system and moved its elections from odd-number years to even-number years.

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