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Egan holds narrow lead over Leece

November 06, 2002

Deirdre Newman

"Who is that stranger striding in from the Westside of the

district? Can we trust him with our precious children?"

Tom Egan's opening lines from candidate forums were receiving a

narrow, though still stunning "yes" Tuesday night as he led incumbent

Wendy Leece 52% to 48% with 92 of 178 precincts reporting.

Egan's slight lead, which he maintained from early in the night,

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was all the more significant given he was the only school board

challenger poised to beat an incumbent.

Egan's victory would represent a blow to the most conservative and

independent voice on the school board.

"I'm pleased that I'm ahead, but it's just the partial results,"

Egan said modestly, as he shuttled between two parties Tuesday night.

"I don't want to get too excited, but I'm reminded of Egan's first

law. If the salad is good, then the rest of the dinner is good."

Although Leece took comfort in being behind by only a slim margin,

she was hunkered down for many more hours of nail-biting.

"It's going to be a long night and it's probably going to be

pretty close," said Leece, at home with family, friends and

supporters. "We've got a long way to go."

In the board's other two races, both Judy Franco and Serene Stokes

handily beat their challengers. With more than half of the precincts

reporting, Franco had received 72% of the vote and Stokes had

received 70%. Stokes' victory was sweeter since she beat two

challengers -- Ed Loyd and Ron Winship.

"I'm really excited about it," said Stokes, who was celebrating at

home with family, friends and supporters. "We really worked hard. I'm

just delighted. I felt like I had a lot to offer the district."

The district also looked like it was a victor in its quest to

procure matching funds for its facilities improvement program as

Proposition 47, the state public education facilities bond act, was

ahead 56% to 44% statewide with slightly more than one-third of the

precincts reporting.

"I am very excited about that because it means that the plans for

Measure A will be able to be carried forward," said Patti

Christiansen, Harbor Council PTA president. "But the election is not

completely won yet, because we have another election in March 2004

....But I'm hopeful for our district."

The Coast Community College District also seemed poised to emerge

victorious with 66% of district residents supporting a $370-million

bond to upgrade facilities at all three community colleges, with

about one-third of precincts reporting.

* DEIRDRE NEWMAN covers education. She may be reached at (949)

574-4221 or by e-mail at deirdre.newman@latimes.com.

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