DOWNEY − The incumbents running for the Downey Unified School District board of education scored big on Tuesday as each was re-elected to serve another four years on the dais.
With all precincts reporting, D. Mark Morris, Donald LaPlante, and Willie Gutierrez defeated their four female challengers in an election plagued with low voter turnout.
LaPlante, who was first elected to the board of education in 1979, held off two opponents in trustee area 4, garnering 328 votes (51.6%).
"I am tremendously honored to have been re-elected by the citizens in Trustee Area 4," said LaPlante in a statement on Wednesday.
"I want to thank all of my supporters, especially the teachers of Downey, for their hard work on my behalf. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Board for the next four years to manage the major construction program approved last year in Measure O and the goals the Board has set to implement the new state standards under Common Core."
His closest competitor, Linda Solomon Saldana, collected 195 votes (30.7%). Saldana conceded defeat, but blamed a lackluster turnout for the election results.
"The experience of running for office was worth all the hard work. My legs are tired but not my spirit," Saldana said. "Our District is good but the work does not end, we need to make it great. We need to push and give our kids the education they deserve."
School teacher Maria Avalos, who also ran against LaPlante, courted many public endorsements, but took in just 112 votes (17.6%).
In trustee area 6, Morris bested challenger Vanessa Rodriguez by only 30 votes. Morris earned 127 votes (56.7%) to Rodriguez's 97 votes (43.3%).
Rodriguez took to Facebook to express gratitude to her supporters and left the door open for a future run.
"I learned so much from this experience like the importance that citizens have to let their thoughts and concerns be expressed even if they feel it is falling on deaf ears...," she said. "I hope my endeavor inspired others to be brave, dare to dream, stand up and make a difference."
Morris, who was first elected in 1982, is a lifelong Downey resident and graduate of Downey High School. He formerly sat on the city's community services commission and water board.
Gutierrez, a DUSD school board member since 2000, also picked up a victory in trustee area 3 against Claudia Medina, who garnered 158 votes (28.2%) to his 401 votes (71.7%) respectively.
With no opposition, DUSD school board president Tod Corrin will also serve another four-year term. He was elected in 2003.
The three incumbents seeking re-election to the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District board of education will also serve another term as challenger Victor Juan was unable to surpass the top three vote-getters.
With all precincts reporting, Karen Morrison earned 1,998 votes (31%), followed by Chris Pflanzer with 1,720 (26.7%) and Jesse Urquidi with 1,687 (26.2%).
Juan, who serves as a Norwalk planning commissioner, planned to capitalize on his passion for youth and technology to claim a seat on the dais, but he came in fourth with 1,025 votes (15.9%).
While more than 60,000 people were eligible to vote in the NLMUSD school board election, only 6,430 citizens cast a ballot, a representation of the dismal turnout overall this year.
Throughout Los Angeles County, election results show just 9.08 percent of eligible registered voters cast ballots. That is nearly 64,000 fewer ballots than the 2013 November election of local and municipal contests.