Orange County Board of Education President Mari Barke and opponent Martha Fluor are the leading contenders for the newly redrawn coastal Trustee Area 2 as voting draws to an end today.
Barke, 59, a board member since 2018, faces two challengers: Fluor, 71, a former Newport-Mesa Unified school board member for 29 years, and Christopher R. Ganiere, 54, an architect.
Unlike other primaries, whoever gets the most votes on June 7 becomes the winner in the Orange County Board of Education trustee races. The same is true for the Orange County Department of Education superintendent race.
In Trustee Area 2, the winner will represent for the next four years residents in these cities: Costa Mesa, Cypress, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Los Alamitos, Rossmoor, Seal Beach, and portions of Newport Beach and Irvine.
Barke is part of a majority bloc on the Orange County Board of Education that has pushed a conservative agenda.
With three board members — Barke, Tim Shaw, and Lisa Sparks — up for re-election in competitive races, the power dynamics on the board could potentially shift depending on the outcome of the election. In recent years, the Board of Education has opposed Superintendent Al Mijares on a number of issues as it sought to wrestle more power away from the superintendent and have a greater say over the Orange County Department of Education budget and other matters.
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In its role as an appellate board for charter schools denied by home school districts, the board majority has increased the number of the publicly funded charters. It also recently approved an expansion of a charter school co-founded by Barke’s husband, Jeff Barke, and Mark Bucher, who has contributed or lent money to each of the incumbents.
Barke works as a consultant for the California Policy Center, a libertarian think tank that Bucher co-founded, and she has raised more than $218,000; Fluor has raised more than $75,000 in campaign contributions, according to campaign finance disclosure reports filed with the Orange County Registrar of Voters. Ganiere did not report any contributions.
But there’s additional money behind Fluor, with a couple of political action committees working to oust both Barke and fellow trustee Sparks.
One group — called the Orange County Great Public Schools to Oppose Lisa Sparks and Mari Barke — has contributed $140,000 to another political action committee called Women for American Values and Ethics.
That group has spent $63,892 against Barke and $70,758 against Sparks. The Women PAC also contributed to Sparks and Barke’s opponents.
Early results tonight will begin with ballots that were mailed before Election Day. Check here for updates as the vote counts come in.
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