Savanna School District: Where Elections Go to Die
Posted by Chris Nguyen on August 7, 2014
I was checking on candidate filing and saw that in the Savanna School District, only the three incumbents: Edward Erdtsieck (NPP), Linda Weinstock (R), and John Shook (D) have pulled (and filed) papers for the ballot. No challengers have pulled papers. Ordinarily, this is no big deal, as periodically, school districts and special districts will have unopposed incumbents. Typically in cases of unopposed incumbents (or unopposed candidates), school district and special districts will cancel the election and declare the unopposed people elected. However, I wondered how long it had been since the last election in the Savanna School District.
There has not been an election for school board members in the Savanna School District in 20 years! Yes, that’s right: the last election for school board members in the Savanna School District was in 1994. The median tenure for board member is currently 24 years:
- Edward Erdtsieck (NPP), 78, of Buena Park: Board Member since 1986
- Chris Brown (D), 65, of Buena Park: Board Member since 1988
- Linda Weinstock (R), 57, of Buena Park: Board Member since 1990
- Carol Sundman (R), 81, of Anaheim: Board Member since 1999
- John Shook (D), 52, of Anaheim: Board Member since 2011, but his late predecessor, Patrick Ochoa, was on the Savanna Board for 43 years from 1968 until his death in 2011
I’m not one of the people who believes every incumbent must be opposed every election, but really, 20 years without an election?
Challengers have until 5 PM on Friday to file at the Registrar of Voters office at 1300 S. Grand Ave., Bldg. C, Santa Ana, CA 92705. There are no nomination signatures required. There is no filing fee to appear on the ballot, and it only costs $605 to for a candidate’s statement in the sample ballot sent to all active registered voters.
In 1994, Dana Adams unsuccessfully challenged Erdtsieck, Weinstock, and Ochoa. There was no election in 1992. You have to go back to 1990 to find the last time an incumbent lost a re-election bid in Savanna: Erdtsieck and Ochoa were re-elected while Weinstock defeated incumbent Linda McGoldrick.
The last election with more than one challenger was in 1988: Chris Brown and Gary Roger Fite defeated Gary Krieger. A fourth candidate, Frances Ruble, was unsuccessful in her bid for the Board. Incumbent Art Brown (D) retired (though he would return to politics in 1990 for the first of his six terms on the Buena Park City Council), and Chris Brown is Art Brown’s wife.
The Savanna School District consists of four elementary schools: Cerritos, Hansen, Holder, and Reid. All of the district’s students go on to Anaheim Union High School District schools for junior high school and high school. Most go on to Orangeview Jr. High and Western High, with a handful going on to Lexington Jr. High and Cypress High or Dale Jr. High and Magnolia High. Ironically, the attendance area for AUHSD’s Savanna High School does not include any portion of the Savanna School District.
There are approximately 10,300 registered voters in the Savanna School District, with 4,500 in Anaheim, 3,500 in Stanton, 1,300 in Cypress, and 1,000 in Buena Park.
Surely there is someone among those 10,300 voters who is willing to challenge the entrenched incumbents. With such a tiny district, a grassroots campaign could be successfully waged in this small place. Voter turnout in November will be approximately 4,400 voters in 3,100 homes in 16 precincts. A candidate could reach all of these voters by hitting just 36 homes per day if they start on Saturday. Or walking one precinct per day, a candidate could cover the entire district in just over 2 weeks or 8 weekends (there’s 10 weekends left before the first absentee ballots arrive). Even at half a precinct per day, a candidate could cover the entire district in just over a month. Chances are that a challenger wouldn’t even have to cover the entire district to garner enough votes to win. The incumbents have virtually no name ID since they a) are incumbents in an incredibly low-profile school district and b) haven’t been on the ballot (Shook) or haven’t been on the ballot in at least 24 years (Weinstock and Erdtsieck).
The Savanna School District was featured in the Grand Jury report, “School Bonds – The Untold Story of Assessed Values” issued in June. The Grand Jury called for Savanna’s consolidation into another school district in “Orange County School Districts: Dire Financial Futures” also issued in June. It passed two bonds: Measure N in November 2008 and Measure G in June 2012. They are at 182% of the bonded indebtedness limit. While four other school districts exceed 50% of their bonded indebtedness limits (Anaheim City, Cypress, Westminster, and Santa Ana Unified), Savanna is the only one in excess of 100%. Savanna had to obtain a special waiver from the State Board of Education to exceed the bonded indebtedness limit.
The Savanna School District is roughly between Beach Blvd. and Holder St. and between Orange Ave. and Katella Ave., plus a small portion of the City of Stanton between Court Ave. and Beach Blvd. and between Pacific St. and Katella Ave. Here’s the exact map from the Savanna School District: