By Miriam Raftery
Photos, left to right: Rebecca McRae, Charda Fontenot, and Megan Epperson
November 7, 2018 (La Mesa-Spring Valley) – Three seats are open in the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District due to three conservative Republicans stepping down. Two slates have been vying for those seats and with 63% of precincts tallied, voters appear to have split among the conservative and reform slates. The common factor among the three currently in the lead is gender: all three are women in an election season that’s seen women winning races across the nation.
Teacher Rebecca McRae and lactation consultant/parent Charda Fontenot, both endorsed by the district’s teacher’s union and by the Democratic party in the official nonpartisan race, are currently in first and second place with 21.25% and 15.34%. Megan Epperson, a parent backed by the Republican Party, has 15.19%.
The two other conservative Republican-backed candidates, pastor and businessman Steve Babbitt and educator Brianna Garaza, are in fourth and fifth place currently with 14.92% and 14.66%.
Jerry Lecko, an independent and former school board member running on the reform slate with McRae and Fontenot, trails with 12.84% of the vote. He also had endorsement from the teacher’s union.
Matthew Sablove, who is unaffiliated with any political party or either slate, has just 5.81% of the vote.
The three newcomers will replace retiring board members Bob Duff, David Chong and Rebekah Basson, all conservative Republicans.
Duff is stepping down due to age. Chong, a firearms instructor who drew controversy for deriding students concerned about gun violence in schools, is moving out of the district. Basso is leaving to focus on motherhood. A church secretary new to the area, she was appointed to fill a vacancy over qualified candidates including a PTA president and a former teacher’s union leader.
The three newcomers will join incumbents Jim Long and board president Emma Turner. Both are Republicans, however Turner, an African-American woman and psychologist with a master's degree in special education,has sided against the board majority on some key issues. She will likely be a swing vote if the two Democratic candidates hold on to win seats, along with one new face from the conservative side of the aisle, a shakeup that could result in the reform slate's goal of making the board more responsive to the voices of parents, teachers and students in the diverse district.