The biggest development in Fresno-area school board races perhaps is who won’t be on the November ballot.
Longtime Central Unified trustee Terry Cox tells GV Wire℠ that she won’t run for a sixth term.
— Terry Cox
Cox says that after 20 years on the board she wants to focus on her job as Fresno City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria’s chief of staff and on her family.
Friday was the first deadline for potential candidates to file for most races for the Nov. 3 election. But, because of retirements or incumbents not running for re-election, candidates have until Wednesday to get their names on the ballot in those races.
One of the races that the extended deadline is in play is the Area 2 seat on the Fresno County Board of Education. Incumbent Michael Robinson didn’t file to run for his third term. Thus far, only Democratic Party activist Gail Gaston is running for the seat.
Changes Coming on Clovis Unified Board, Too
In addition to a changing of the guard at Central Unified, there will be changes in Clovis Unified, as well.
And, all four State Center Community College District trustee seats will have competitive races.
In the Fresno area, school board seats will be the only local-level races with choices for voters. The elections for mayor and city council were decided with the March primary, and there will be no Fresno, Clovis, or county-wide measures to vote on.
Familiar Names Vying for Cox’s Seat
Two candidates have qualified to run for Cox’s Area 6 seat, and both are known for their political activism.
Businessman Richard Martinez has run for school boards and the state Assembly in the past without success. His wife, Judee Martinez, is president of the Central Unified teacher’s union.
Stacy Williams organized the failed effort to recall Fresno Unified trustee Terry Slatic. She has often spoken out on racial issues in the school district and the Fresno area.
“I am the candidate who has the experience of working with public and private institutions, navigating governmental entities, and holding them accountable, whose profession is to advocate for others every day, with a focus on students,” Williams told GV Wire℠ via email.
A late entrant is farmer Jeremy Mehling, who intends to file Tuesday. He wants to help the agricultural program at the Central High west campus.
“The teachers 25 years ago helped me and I want to make sure that that program still stays,” Mehling said.
GV Wire℠ reached out to Martinez for comment, but did not receive a response by time of publication.
Central will also hold a special election for the seat vacated by Richard Atkins following his resignation stemming from a scandal over his insensitive remarks on Facebook.
Shawn Brooks, who ran and lost against Atkins in 2008, will face Bret Rush, the chief of staff for Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig.
Phillip Cervantes, running for his second term, drew a challenger in Area 3 in salesman Corbin Gunstream.
Richard Solis, running for his second term in Area 5, doesn’t have a challenger.
Editor’s Note: Information about the candidacy of Jeremy Mehling has been added to the story. The original story said Terry Cox served 12 years on the board. She was first appointed in 2000, thus she has served 20 years as a trustee.
Retirement Creates Open Seat in Clovis Unified
Ginny Hovsepian is retiring after 19 years on the school board. Two have qualified to replace her on the November ballot.
David DeFrank, who is an attorney for the state Fifth District Court of Appeal, has received Hovsepian’s endorsement as her replacement for the Area 2 seat.
Also running for the position is Jacob Trumble, a ramp agent at Fresno Yosemite International Airport.
Hugh Awtrey is running for a full-term after being appointed to the Area 4 seat vacated last year when Brian Heryford retired.
Two others have qualified — financial planner Jonathan Holt, who was a finalist for the open position last year, and Noha Elbaz, an educator.
Christopher Casado is running for his fourth — and what he says is his last term — in the Area 7 seat. He drew one challenger, Yolanda Moore, a physician’s assistant.
No one is challenging Area 5 trustee Steven Fogg.
Four Races, Four Contests at SCCCD
All four incumbents for the district overseeing the area’s community colleges face legitimate challenges.
State Center Area 2
The toughest race may be Area 2, where two-term trustee Eric Payne faces two strong contenders — communications professional Nasreen Johnson, formerly with Fresno EOC; and Sevag Tateosian, a public health analyst with Fresno County.
The area covers much of northwest and southwest Fresno, as well as large parts of western Fresno County, including Kerman.
Payne has long been a community advocate in his time in office but has seen his share of controversies. He still has a $54,000 fine from the Fair Political Practices Commission hanging over his head.
Johnson is running her third race in two years, finishing as a runner-up for a Fresno Unified seat in 2018 (won by Terry Slatic), and a 2019 special election for Fresno County Supervisor (won by Steve Brandau).
Tateosian hosts an interview program airing on public-access CMAC. He is a former staff member for retired Fresno County Supervisor Debbie Poochigian.
State Center Area 3
John Leal faces two young challengers as he asks voters for a third term.
Dary Rezvani, a Fresno businessman, ran for Congress in March but failed to advance to the general election. That race pits Republican incumbent Devin Nunes against Phil Arballo.
Danielle Parra of Fowler is a political newcomer, but not to politics. Her dad, Daniel Parra, is a Fowler city councilman.
The seat covers parts of east-central and southeast Fresno, extending southward in Fresno County covering Kingsburg, Laton, and Caruthers.
State Center Area 6
Deborah Ikeda, who is running for her second term, faces two accomplished challengers.
Sally Fowler is a recently retired administrator at Fresno Unified. Chris Milton owns a Clovis hotel and has made a name for himself recently for his civil rights advocacy.
The district covers parts of northeast Fresno, most of Clovis, and parts of eastern Fresno County.
State Center Area 7
Richard Caglia is running for his fourth term in the area that covers central Fresno.
Caglia faces two challengers: Abena Cruise, a community outreach director for Table Mountain Casino, and Jon Bath, a Fresno Unified teacher and union official.
Two Contested Races in Fresno Unified
Two of the three trustee seats in Fresno Unified will be contested.
Claudia Cazares, an administrator with the city of Clovis, runs for her second term in Area 6 (Hoover High School). She will be challenged by dispatcher Esteban Pacheco, and Bill Gates, a business owner who unsuccessfully ran for Fresno mayor earlier this year.
Trustee Carol Mills, running for her fifth term in Area 5 (Fresno High School) has three challengers: David Paredes, Alex Desiga, and Sharon Clinton.
No challengers emerged in Area 2 (Roosevelt High School) to face incumbent Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas, who is running for her second term.
List of Fresno-Area School Board Candidates
Central Unified Area 3
Phillip Cervantes (incumbent)
Central Unified Area 5
Richard Solis (incumbent)
Central Unified Area 6
Central Unified Area 4
(Special election for the remainder of the term)
Clovis Unified Area 2
Clovis Unified Area 4
Hugh Awtrey (incumbent)
Clovis Unified Area 5
Clovis Unified Area 7
Christopher Casado (incumbent)
Fresno Unified Area 2
Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas (incumbent)
Fresno Unified Area 5
Carol Mills (incumbent)
Fresno Unified Area 6
Claudia Cazares (incumbent)
Fresno County Board of Education Area 2
Fresno County Board of Education Area 3
Daren Miller (incumbent)
Fresno County Board of Education Area 5
Allen Clyde (incumbent)
SCCCD Area 2
Eric Payne (incumbent)
SCCCD Area 3
John Leal (incumbent)
SCCCD Area 6
Deborah Ikeda (incumbent)
SCCCD Area 7
Richard Caglia (incumbent)