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Attorney Charles W. Kim Jr. jumped into the San Diego Unified school board race at the 11th hour, after news broke that incumbent Luis Acle hadn’t collected enough valid signatures to make the ballot. Kim wanted to provide a counterpoint to Richard Barrera, Acle’s sole challenger, and thought his legal expertise might help San Diego Unified muddle through the budget crisis.

The county registrar is still calculating whether Kim got the 200 valid signatures to qualify, but the 50-year-old lawyer says he doubts he’ll succeed. Kim said he submitted 203 signatures to the registrar, after a whirlwind two days of door-knocking.

The legal deadline for joining the race was extended to Wednesday, five calendar days after Acle failed to qualify. But for Kim, the process was far shorter. News of Acle’s shortfall didn’t break until Sunday, and Kim said he couldn’t pick up papers from the county registrar until Monday morning.

His campaign “could be very short-lived,” Kim said, later adding, “There are serious questions in my mind as a lawyer, as to whether it’s really fair to say you have five days [to gather signatures], but on two of them you can’t do anything at all.”

Kim, a Republican family lawyer, said the budget crisis inspired him to join the race. He contrasted his legal expertise with Barrera’s experience as a labor organizer, citing his service on the San Diego County Bar Association’s board, the city’s Managed Competition Review Board, and the city’s review board for police practices, which looks at officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths. Over the past decade, he has served as an adjunct faculty member and mentor at three different San Diego law schools.

“Having a board staffed only with educators or community activists, I think, doesn’t really give the board the kind of balance and expertise it needs in order to do its job,” Kim said.

Kim has four children, two of whom attended San Marcos public schools and two of whom are currently attending private schools. This is the Golden Hill resident’s first run for public office. Acle’s exit from the race spurred him to sign up, he said.

“I was able to run for, essentially, an open seat, and not run against an incumbent. It’s considered bad form to try and push and incumbent out,” Kim said. Citing Acle’s run-in with the Ethics Commission, he added, “I’m a pretty square person. I just didn’t want to get involved in a campaign where there’s going to be mudslinging.”

His other priorities, if elected, would be to keep the school board from micromanaging issues at individual schools — a long-running complaint lodged by district staffers and past superintendents — and to involve employees in decision-making.

“I remember my mother (a schoolteacher) would complain about the district throwing out a curriculum — and nobody was asking the teachers,” he said. “In some cases, it’s a complete waste of money and a disaster. It could be prevented or mitigated by having teachers involved from the get-go.”


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