It happens every election: In an effort to clinch enough votes for the big win, candidates bark, bicker and bite. We're talking the pettiest politics possible: ballot designations, with the latest skirmish being the race for the Orange County Board of Education First District seat, which covers Fountain Valley, Santa Ana, parts of Garden Grove as well as Tustin.
Incumbent Long Pham is stepping down, and four candidates are now vying for his position, with one of them claiming the other two are unqualified. Eleazar Elizondo, a Democratic campaign consultant and former Santa Ana elementary school teacher, alleges that his other opponents, infamous local blogger Art Pedroza and Robert Morris-Hammond, are misleading the public vis-à-vis the titles they put on their ballot designations. Pedroza wrote down “community college teacher”; Hammond, who has home schooled children for the last eight years, calls himself a “teacher/Orange County business owner.”
Both are unqualified to call themselves teachers, according to Elizondo
(who designated himself as “public affairs consultant”) because the law
doesn't allow a candidate to call himself a teacher if he hasn't
practiced teaching in the past year.
Elizondo complained to the Orange County Registrar of Voters, demanding
they investigate Pedroza and Hammond's qualifications as teachers. The
Registrar, which doesn't have the authority to investigate whether
candidates are teachers or not, allowed Pedroza to keep his title, and
requested Hammond, who has home schooled children for the past eight
years, change his title from “Orange County teacher” to simply “teacher”
so voters don't assume he's affiliated with the public school system.
The Registrar allowed Hammond to keep his title after that change,
because he received certification from the state in order to home
school, but that “doesn't make you a teacher any more than giving your
kids cough syrup makes you a doctor,” said Elizondo.
As for Pedroza, the Registrar wrote in a response to Elizondo that “as
an adjunct instructor, [Pedroza] does teach.” Pedroza has been a
part-time, adjunct safety instructor for the Painting and Decorating
Contractors of America apprenticeship program at Cerritos College since
“For Eleazar to imply that vocational instruction is somehow lesser is
pretty funny,” he said. Pedroza asserts that career education falls
under the Orange County Department of Education, thereby qualifying him
as a teacher. Many of his students are monolingual Latino workers, who
for the most part “aren't going to get a regular college degree but
they're hard working.” He said he took a class in education before he
started teaching at the community college.
“I have a pretty good ballot designation and [Elizondo's] isn't that
great,” said Pedroza. “When you run for board of education, you want to
try to get the word teacher in there.”
Pedroza and Morris-Hammond successfully did just that. Unsatisfied,
Elizondo, took to the courts, without noticing that he missed the March
23 deadline to officially challenge his opponents leaving him with the
last option of campaigning until the June 5, 2012 election date, where
the candidate with the highest, though not the majority, number of votes
“These guys are misrepresenting themselves and getting away with it,”
Elizondo said. “Part of the government is going along with it and the
truth is they're not doing anything about it.”