Retired school psychologist Susan Wittrup easily unseated Bullard area incumbent Terry Slatic in the most closely watched Fresno Unified School Board election on Tuesday night.
Wittrup, who threw her hat in the ring early and built a huge campaign treasury, dominated Slatic — a one-term board member — and challengers Jim Barr and Michael Haynes in the race for the Area 7 trustee seat.
Meanwhile, three other board incumbents were leading in their races after updated vote counts were released late in the evening by the Fresno County Elections Office. However, McLane Area trustee Veva Islas was holding on by the narrowest of margins.
In a vote return update at 10:42 p.m. with 100% of precincts reporting, Wittrup had 57.2% of the vote to Slatic’s 26.4%, while Barr garnered 12%, and Haynes ended the night with 4%.
Wittrup said she was pleased to be ahead by such a significant margin as the votes came in.
“I am so grateful to the overwhelming support from the families of the Bullard area,” she said earlier Tuesday. “I met thousands of them at their front doors, and connecting with people at their homes was most satisfying.”
(Watch) Susan Wittrup Ousts Terry Slatic in Fresno Unified Race
Slatic, who was seeking election to his second term on the School Board, achieved infamy during his four years in office by being censured twice by his fellow trustees. The first, less than a year after he was elected in 2018, came after a series of incidents involving Bullard students and staff and an Army recruiter.
Two years later the ink was barely dry on a letter informing Slatic that the first censure had been lifted when he embarked on a self-described filibuster during a board meeting. Slatic, who had indicated that he planned to speak for at least an hour, was warned to wrap up his comments but continued to speak loudly even after his microphone was turned off. The board voted weeks later to renew his censure, and board meetings no longer contain a period of time designated for board-superintendent comments.
Barr, a math teacher at J.E. Young Academic Center who ran for the seat in 2006, and Haynes, a campus safety assistant, conducted low-budget campaigns compared to Wittrup and Slatic.
The Area 7 race was one of several competitive races for the Fresno Unified School Board. Fresno trustees are elected by area, not at large.
McLane Area 4
The most dramatic and surprising Fresno Unified races turned out to be in the McLane Area, where Islas was clinging to only a 25-vote lead over one of two challengers following updated returns at 10:42 p.m.
Islas, who had amassed a significant campaign treasury in her second bid for the School Board, had 41.9% of the votes cast with 100% of precincts reporting. Challenger Karen Steed, a retired teacher, had 41.2%, and chemist Michelle Scire had 16.1%. Islas’ saw a wider lead diminish throughout the night.
The votes totals are still subject to change as ballots that were mailed or were dropped at drop boxes Tuesday have yet to be counted. The election will not be certified for several weeks.
Both Steed’s and Scire’s campaigns were low-budget compared to Islas’.
Sunnyside Area 3
Longtime Trustee Valerie Davis faced three challengers in her bid for re-election to the Sunnyside Area 3 seat that she has held since 2004. Karl Diaz, a Madera County teacher who came within a few hundred votes of upsetting Davis four years ago, retired teacher Tammy McMahon Gorans, and marketing representative Michael Osmer all sought to unseat Davis.
In the late Tuesday returns, Davis had a comfortable lead with 47.4%, followed by Diaz with 22.7%, McMahon Gorans with 20.4%, and Osmer with 9.1%.
Edison Area 1
In the Edison High Area 1 race, incumbent Keshia Thomas, seeking her second term, held an overwhelming lead over retired correctional officer Wayne Horton by a margin of 73.8% to 25.3%.