San Diego Unified Board of Education hasn’t had a hotly contested school board race since 2016 when LaShae Collins faced off against Sharon Whitehurst-Payne to represent southeastern San Diego.
This year, two seats are up for grabs on the five-person board and one of those seats is being heavily contested – at least when it comes to money.
Becca Williams, a Republican, is running against two Democrats, Lily Higman and Cody Petterson, for District C, which runs along San Diego’s coastline. The top two vote getters in June’s Primary Election will face off in November’s General Election.
Williams, who co-founded several charter schools in Texas, has massively outraised and outspent her opponents, according to the most recent campaign filings. She started raising money in 2021 and so far has brought in nearly $50,000. She has also loaned her campaign $5,000. (A statement of economic interest indicates Williams trades tens of thousands of dollars in stocks each year. She bought and sold between $2,000 and $10,000 worth of AMC stock back when Reddit users sent the company’s value skyrocketing.) Williams has spent almost $30,000, significantly more than the other candidates.
Petterson – who is backed by the local teacher’s union – has spent comparatively little on his own campaign. Petterson also started raising money in 2021. He has raised roughly $20,000 and spent roughly $3,000.
Lily Higman, a former telecom executive, has raised roughly $10,000 and loaned herself another $10,000. She has spent roughly $16,000.
Each of the campaigns have spent most of their money on advertising and political consultants.
To have a school board candidate backed by the teacher’s union so outgunned in campaign finance is rare. And, indeed, union officials have stepped in to raise Petterson’s profile.
On May 3, they spent $18,500 on political mailers supporting Petterson, who handles intergovernmental affairs for county Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer.
The spending related to Petterson’s campaign differs starkly from that of Shana Hazan, the union backed candidate in the race for District B, which covers northeastern San Diego.
Hazan has significantly outraised and outspent her opponents. She has raised nearly $80,000 and loaned herself another $5,000. Hazan has spent nearly $20,000 to support her campaign. Union officials haven’t felt the need to do any spending on her behalf yet, according to the most recent campaign filings.
The race for District B also features two Democrats – Hazan and Godwin Higa – and a Republican, Jose Velazquez. (The San Diego Union-Tribune published a nice summary of both races and where the candidates stand.)
Hazan was a public school teacher, who transitioned to working in nonprofits. Higa is a retired teacher and principal. And Velazquez is a vehicle service technician, who has participated in a lawsuit seeking to dial back ethnic studies classes.
Higa has raised about $4,500 and spent almost $2,000. Velazquez has raised about $5,300 and spent roughly $3,500.
Currently, San Diego Unified’s five-person board is made up of all union-backed board members. The union’s preferred candidates have tended to sail through each of the elections during the last six years. If District C’s race is close – or if Petterson fails to advance to the General Election – it will be a surprising twist in local school board politics.
Correction: Shana Hazan has loaned her campaign $5,000, not $15,000.