Early returns in the San Diego Unified school board race show voters going for a teacher with union backing over a businessman to represent the northeastern areas of the school district.

The results show that despite the rumblings of frustration with the San Diego Unified school board and its strong support from the teachers union, being a teacher — and having their union at your back — is still a powerful credential in the school board race.

Early results showed math teacher Kevin Beiser well ahead of businessman Stephen Rosen, with 57 percent of the vote to 43 percent for Rosen. So far, 18 percent of the votes have been tallied.

We won’t know tonight how many votes have been cast for incumbent Katherine Nakamura, who is running a write-in campaign. The registrar says it could be at least a week before those votes are counted.

However, if there are so few write-in votes at all that it is impossible for Nakamura to win, Beiser or Rosen could go ahead and declare victory tonight anyway. We’ll be watching the numbers tonight to see if Nakamura is still a contender or if the race is decided before her votes are even counted.

Beiser had almost every advantage in a school board race. He raised more money. He was endorsed by the teachers union, which ran television ads backing him. And he was a teacher with awards under his belt — a simple fact that earned him credibility. His campaign was simple and positive, focusing on small classes and his teaching savvy.

If Beiser keeps up his early lead and wins, he will solidify the school board majority backed by labor. So far, the school board has opted for a grassroots brand of school reform and steered clear of tying teacher evaluation to test scores, which the union loathes. Beiser is widely expected to follow those ideas, keeping the school board on the same keel.

Rosen would have been a dissenting voice, especially on budget issues, where he feels the school board has given too much to employees. With more results still to come, the race isn’t over yet: Donna Cleary, who is consulting Rosen, noted that Rosen lagged early in the June primary before steadily gaining as more votes were counted. But that’s a big gap to make up, she said.

School board candidate Scott Barnett put it more bluntly. “Beiser has definitely won,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/emilyschoolsyou.

Emily Alpert

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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