Will the Apple Go to the Teacher? Eleazar Elizondo Takes His Final Exam

Male teacher

All together, children: "a teacher is someone who teaches children in a classroom."

I was going to entitle this article “The Only Vote That Could Ever Please Me is a Vote for the Teacher Man,” but then I decided not to be too cute about it.  The vote for Eleazar Elizondo today for District 1 of the Orange County Board of Education is one that really matters.  It’s a vote against extremism, against cronyism, and against crass opportunism.

(That is to say: it’s a vote against, respectively, Robert Hammond, Ken Nguyen, and Art Pedroza.)

If you haven’t read my earlier pieces on this race, this is probably your last chance to do so before you vote.  Here are links to:

OCBOE Dist 1 candidate Elizondo: “teacher” actually has a meaning

Eleazar Elizondo Demonstrates His Chops Analyzing OCBOE Issue

Eleazar Elizondo Opponent Demonstrates HIS Analytic Chops, Too!

Eleazar Elizondo Thinks Qualifications Matter for OC Board of Ed

Now on to the story of the day.

Eleazar Elizondo, of all the candidates in this years election (me included), has the best reason I’ve heard for wanting to run for office.

He’s not trying to promote his party or an issue agenda; he’s not being self-serving; he’s not trying to build up support for a future race; he’s not trying to increase his speaking fees.  He had not planned on running until Long Pham bolted (or was bolted from) the race shortly before the end of filing and others began to filter in.  As noted in He thinks he’d be good at the job, but he wasn’t really slavering for the job.

He’s running for one reason: he doesn’t think that the other guys should win. So let’s talk about the other guys first.

Ken Nguyen

To be fair, I don’t recall Elizondo saying much about Ken Nguyen.  Then again, Ken Nguyen doesn’t say much about Ken Nguyen either.  He does have a website, where he says this:

I’ve spent most of my career managing adult vocational schools. Despite limited funding, we were able to maximize our services and help thousands of immigrants learn English and acquire the skills they need to succeed in America. By improving efficiency, we can help public schools succeed despite serious budget cuts imposed by Sacramento.

That’s about it for the issues.  (Elizondo’s verdict in comparing his own experience as an actual classroom teacher to the others: “[Nguyen] states he has some adult vocational experience.”)  The page that seems to matter for Ken Nguyen’s candidacy is the endosements page.  He lists:

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas [sic], California State Senator Lou Correa, California State Assemblyman Jose Solorio, Garden grove [sic] Mayor Pro Tem Steve Jones, Garden Grove Council Member Bruce Broadwater, Garden Grove Council Member Dina Nguyen, Garden Grove Council Member Kris Beard, Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, Santa Ana Council Member Vincent Sarmiento, Santa Ana Council Member Michele Martinez, Santa Ana Council Member Carlos Bustamante, Santa Ana Council Member Sal Tinajero, Santa Ana Council Member David Benavides, Fountain Valley Council Member Michael Vo, Westminster Mayor Margie Rice, Westminster Council Member Frank Fry, Westminster Council Member Tri Ta, Westminster School Board Member Andrew Nguyen, Santa Ana School Board President Rob Richardson, Westminster School Board Member Sergio Contreras,  Garden grove School Board Member Lan Nguyen, and Santa Ana School Board Member Roman Reyna.

If this establishment group is your cup of tea, and if qualifications are secondary to endorsements in your book, then Ken Nguyen may be your guy.  It’s just sort of “more power to the powerful” as opposed to “more quality from the qualified,” but worse things could happen to the Board of Education.  For example:

Robert Hammond

Hammond is the religious political extremist, home schooler, and self-appointed trainer of other home schoolers who was ejected from the 69th Assembly District race by the county GOP because of their abiding love for Tom Daly.  Hammond needed somewhere to land, so somehow Long Pham ending up having to go all in on his apparently doomed AD-72 bid.  County officials are trying to make it up to the Vietnamese community by supporting Nguyen.  GOP Party officials are cuddling up to the Tea Party by fawning over Hammond.  If you like the idea of Board of Ed policy used to bash gays and promote religion, here’s your guy.

Elizondo’s verdict: “[Hammond] is a home school parent and he thinks this qualifies him to call himself a ‘teacher’.” Lots of politicians get exercised about ballot designations, but Elizondo seems to have more passion — and justification — than most.  He is an actual teacher by profession who can’t use the ballot designation “teacher” because he hasn’t been teaching (instead doing political consulting work) for the past year.  Hammond goes on an anti-science jihad, pulls his kids out of school — and he gets to call himself a teacher when running for the public board of education.

Strange system.  And it’s about to get even stranger:

Art Pedroza

While the prospect of Hammond’s winning was one reason for Elizondo to get into the race, the prospect of former gay-bashing Republican, former gay-friendly Democrat, former or current (I no longer know) Libertarian anti-union activist and union member Art Pedroza seems to have made up his mind for good.  Pedroza, whose blogs are literally six of the top seven Google hits I found when searching for information on Ken Nguyen, is not one to shy away from self-promotion.  (As I’ve noted, I intend not to blog about the substance of my own race against Bob Huff here at all, though I’m not going to pretend that it isn’t happening.  Art, though, wants to be the go-to source for information about the opponent who stole away Sal Tinajero’s heart.)

The substance of Pedroza is not something that I think I need to discuss here.  Let’s just say that I think I’m doing him a favor by trying to keep him out of office, because if he bends reality and abuses power like he does on a blog I shudder to think what he’d do with real power, but I’m afraid he’d really hurt himself.

Pedroza also has a “teacher” ballot designation, because he is part of a team that occasionally teaches adult safety classes for painters at Cerritos College.  (If I were Pedroza, I would simply say “Outside of Orange County” and leave you to imagine that it was Bakersfield.)  Elizondo’s verdict: “[Pedroza] is a part time-hourly instructor in an adult vocation program and yet he calls himself a ‘teacher.'”

Elizondo seems really fixed on the idea that it’s a good idea to have at least one experienced elementary school teacher on the Orange County Board of Education.  (If I were Art Pedroza, I’d say that Elizondo was “obsessed,” “jealous of his credentials,” or God knows what.  I can’t really bear to think of it anymore.)

If you agree with Elizondo that years of teaching in elementary school, as well as being a pitching coach in junior high and an instructor for an academic discipline, History of California and Nevada Government, in community college — well, then he’s there to earn your vote.  If not, then at least Ken Nguyen isn’t pretending to be what you think about when someone calls themselves a teacher, so I guess that what he doesn’t do wrong is a reason to give him a lukewarm secondary endorsement.  He doesn’t seem to be one of the people who drove Elizondo to enter the race; that is itself a sort of qualification.

A qualification it is — but not as good a one as Elizondo’s.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)