Fullerton College and Cypress College Associated Students expressed disapproval of the special election due to high cost. However, Alan Salehi stood his ground and said there can be “no price put on democracy.”
Now, the district is expecting four candidates for the special election challenging the popular idea that a special election would stand without reason.
On the ballet, voters can expect not only Daniel Billings and Alan Salehi, but also two additional candidates Steven Hwangbo and Steven Blount.
Several students, including Associated Student President Thor Roe, challenged the “student-oriented” mantra by Salehi, stating that “forcing” an election at such a high cost is the opposite of student-oriented.
However, with two additional candidates on the ballot, it seems that Salehi wasn’t the only one looking for a special election, just the one willing to take the heat.
The most contributing factor of opposition was the high cost of the special election. According to Interim Chancellor Fred Williams, the initial estimate stated the process could cost anywhere between $240,000 and $270,000.
However, in lieu of Salehi accruing enough petition signatures, the budget has been re-evaluated.
On Oct. 27, the Board of Trustees voted to approve a mail-in election for the special election that would significantly lower the cost. The new estimate falls between about $168,000 and $197,000.
People also questioned the necessity for a special election, given the planned election for November 2016. The appointment of Daniel Billings would only have lasted until the open election. The winner of the open election would serve a full four-year term, rather than the now less than one-year appointment.
Pat Ganer, professor of communications studies at Cypress College who served with Salehi for the Buena Park Library District Board of Trustees, communicated with him directly via email expressing her concerns about his filing for the special election.
“I have heard nothing about the person who was chosen by the board [Daniel Billings] that would lead me to believe that this person would be a disastrous decision for that one year,” Ganer said. “I thought if Al wants to run a year from now, he certainly has that right. He has the right to do so now, but I couldn’t see the necessity of going through two elections in less than a year for this position.”
However, Salehi expressed the concern over the success of incumbents in elections for the district. Historically, no one has won an election against an already seated board member in this millennium.
Open elections will only commence in the event that a candidate files against an incumbent, and that happening is rare. For example, the open election for November 2016 will happen only if a person decides to run against a seated member on the Board, including an appointee. In the event that no one challenges the currently seated member, the elected or appointed trustee will run in the election unopposed.
Salehi questioned the Board members’ historical tendencies to step down shortly after an open election, rather than before. According to Donna Miller, District 3 Trustee prior to stepping down in August, the Board made five appointments during her time since 1995.
No one has won an election against an incumbent during that time period. The only current member of the Board that was not initially appointed to the position is Leonard Lahtinen, who was elected in 1990.
With this strategy, Salehi argued that the district strategically chooses the trustees and removes the democratic vote. He found petitioning for the special election absolutely necessary given that hypothesis.
However, according to the District, the members choose appointment between election cycles only to avoid the excess expenditure. Appointed members on the board run for their position in the next open election, and if successful, become the elected official for that trustee position.
This special election is slated to take place in February, nine months before the open election in November, and the winner of this election could potentially serve only those nine months.
Although, given the history, it seems being an incumbent in these elections offers some advantage. The four elected members on the board, other than Lahtinen who was initially elected and Jacqueline Rodarte who is currently serving on appointment, were initially positioned by appointment, and were successful in all subsequent elections.
Associated Students of both Cypress College and Fullerton College signed resolutions encouraging Salehi to wait for the November 2016 open election. Some members of FC’s Associated Students were seen protesting the election at the district meeting in September.
However, according to Salehi, a lot of his petition signatures came from students at Cypress College, the college more representative of District 3.
“This money was not ever designated to any student program of any kind. If no one runs in November the same funds are then put back into the general fund,” Salehi said. “With this logic it would stand to reason that we should never ever have any elections of any kind because all that money can always be saved and used somewhere else.”
**Updated February 4, 2016**
The Special Election will be on February 9, 2016 to fill one short-term seat on the North Orange County Community College District in Trustee Area 3. The last day to turn in ballots is February 9.
For more information about the special election see the notice of election page.