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Newport Beach went with Egan in school board race

December 13, 2002

Deirdre Newman

While Tom Egan and Wendy Leece ran almost neck-in-neck on the

Westside of Costa Mesa, Egan received considerably more support in

the rest of the district, namely Newport Beach, illustrating that

Leece's criticism of Westside schools and conservative outlook did

not resonate with the majority of the district.

"I think that extreme point of view turns people off," said Cyndie

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Borcoman, a Newport Beach resident, who has been involved with the

district on policy decisions. "Given two candidates, I think people

preferred Egan, and he really did well in the voters' forums."

Egan edged out eight-year incumbent Leece 53% to 48% in the

November election.

On the Westside, Egan garnered about 1,337 votes to Leece's 1,420.

In Newport Beach, Egan received 7,879 votes to Leece's 6,410.

Leece blames her lackluster support in Newport Beach on the

teachers' union endorsement of Egan and the resources it unloaded to

publicize its endorsements.

"The money spent to put out the signs and to put the campaign

material at the schools just really sent a message to the other part

of the district that the teachers supported my opponent, and that's

somewhat deceptive because not all teachers did," Leece said.

Leece also said she was overshadowed by Egan's visibility on slate

mailers. He appeared on nine, and she was only on two.

Egan calls his victory throughout most of the district a

validation of the status quo, even though he was the challenger.

"Egan was the outsider who, paradoxically believed that the public

education glass was half full, whereas Leece was the insider who

believed the glass was half empty," Egan said. "Since the other

incumbents ... swamped their challengers, and I, with my positive

message, won, I have to conclude that, in general, the district

electorate was in a sanguine mood."

Egan admitted that the mood on the Westside is downright

pessimistic when it comes to the state of the area and theorized that

Leece tapped into that dissatisfaction with her criticism of Westside

schools.

That said, Egan emphasized his community activist credentials, but

claimed he couldn't find anything seriously wrong with the district

to harp on during his campaign.

Borcoman, who teaches school in Santa Ana, said another reason

Egan was appealing was because he billed himself as more of a

consensus-builder than Leece, who often voted against the rest of the

board.

Being a team player will be especially critical with the draconian

budget cuts facing education in the state, Borcoman said.

"I think that in today's times, when we're going to have a lot of

severe cuts, this is the time when trustees need to pull in the

majority of people," Borcoman said. "I think Wendy put herself way

over by taking shots at the other board members. This is the time

that everyone needs to work together."

* 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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