WCCUSD candidates backed by the UTR headed for victory; one race remains too close to call
on November 6, 2020
Demetrio Gonzalez-Hoy, formerly a bilingual teacher and president of the United Teachers of Richmond, has won by a large margin in the Area 4 race for West Contra Costa Unified School District.
Gonzalez-Hoy won 50% of the votes with 100% of the precincts reporting, according to the Contra Costa County semi-official election night results. Y’Anad Burrell and Matthew Trujillo trailed behind for Area 4 with 19% of the votes each.
Gonzalez-Hoy was among a slate of candidates endorsed by the United Teachers of Richmond (UTR), an organization made up of nearly 1,700 educators and members. All of these candidates appear to be winning their races as of 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 6.
In Area 1, Jamela Smith-Folds was winning with 57% of the votes. In Area 2, Otheree Christian was winning with 37% of the votes, ahead of Guadalupe Enllana who had 33.7% of the votes.
In the closest race, Leslie Reckler in Area 5 was slightly ahead of incumbent Tom Panas with 37.2% of the votes. As of the last count, Panas had 36.6% of the votes — the two were just 141 votes apart.
In a Facebook post, Reckler asked supporters for their patiences as the votes are counted, adding: “So hang tight. Listen to some Van Morrison.”
Mister Phillips, an incumbent, ran unopposed in District 3 and will keep his seat.
“We’re thrilled that we have these four phenomenal community advocates and leaders who will be on our school board,” said Marissa Glidden, the president of UTR. “We know they’re going to be fighting for kids and public schools.”
Political advocacy group GO Public Schools and UTR passionately fought over seats on the WCCUSD Board of Education, which covers schools from El Cerrito to Hercules.
“It’s basically a race between educators and grassroots donors who contributed to the UTR’s candidates,” Glidden said, “versus [West Contra Costa] Kids Can — which is a PAC, a huge PAC, a pro-charter PAC — [and] GO Public Schools and several very, very wealthy donors who are not parents or community members.”
Natalie Walchuk, executive director of GO Public Schools, which funds West Contra Costa Kids Can, refutes the claim that her organization is pro-charter. Instead, she said that it supports giving parents the option to send their children to charter schools.
“We are charter agnostic, for lack of a better way to describe it,” Walchuk said. “We believe that parents have a right to choose what their children need.”
According to an analysis of individual e-filings for 2020, the West Contra Costa Kids Can and Go Public Schools collectively contributed about $163,000 (monetary and in-kind donations) to Estela DePaz of Area 1, Audra Williams of Area 2 and Panas of Area 5.
Individual e-filings show that the UTR donated less than a third as much. The UTR contributed about $47,000 to Smith-Folds of Area 1, Christian of Area 2, Gonzalez-Hoy of Area 4 and Reckler of Area 5.
Glidden says the results show that “big money doesn’t buy elections in our county, that our voters in West Contra Costa are not going to be bought by billionaires, and that they want people-powered campaigns. They want grassroots campaigns. They want to elect pro-public school advocates.”
(Lead photo courtesy of Francisco Ortiz, vice president of the United Teachers of Richmond.)
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This Van Morrison:
Well okay, the UTR takeover is complete. They were always influential, but now they own it. Let’s see if they can deliver.