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School Board: Big money flows into Citrus Heights special election

Candidates Moe Sarama, left, and Manuel Perez, are running for the Area 7 school board seat in the San Juan Unified School District in 2023. // Image credit: SJUSD/Candidate

Sentinel staff report–
Campaign finance disclosures show the Nov. 7 special election for a key school board seat in the San Juan Unified School District is drawing some significant interest from donors, including a $10,000 donation from a teachers association political action committee.

Citrus Heights residents Moe Sarama and Manuel Perez are the two candidates vying for the vacant Area 7 school board seat, which covers most of Citrus Heights.

For the most recent filing period ending Sept. 23, Sarama’s committee reported receiving $13,640 in contributions, with a total of $2,629 in expenses. A total of 21 donations were reported, ranging as from $100 to as high as $10,000 from the San Juan Teachers Association Political Action Committee.

Through Oct. 23, four additional contributions of $1,000 each have also been reported to Sarama’s campaign, coming from Kareem Auto Sales Inc, teacher Katherine Morash, progressive political action committee “The Six PAC California,” and We Vote – Nosotros Votamos, a political action committee of Planned Parenthood Advocates Mar Monte. Top expenses listed were $500 for yard signs, and around $400 for a campaign kickoff event.

Perez reported much lower total contributions of $3,685, and $2,721 in expenses through the Sept. 23 filing period. A total of 15 donations were reported ranging in amounts from $100 to $500, with the top donation coming from Wilton resident Elizabeth Mahan, who contributed a total of $500. Citrus Heights Mayor Tim Schaefer also contributed a total of $320.

Perez also reported a $1,000 contribution on Oct. 3 from the Capitol Lincoln Club, a Republican political action organization that supports conservative candidates. Top expenses listed were two purchases totaling $1,986.37 for campaign literature and mailing.

Campaign disclosures are required by the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) for local candidates who raise or spend over $2,000. Two pre-election disclosure filings are required by the commission, with an additional requirement for candidates to file a separate form each time a donation of $1,000 or more is received. The next filing deadline is Oct. 26.

As previously reported, Sarama’s campaign has highlighted safety for students and addressing declining enrollment, while Perez has staked out a position to encourage parental involvement and focus on “getting politics out of the classroom.”

The most recent election in 2022 saw the SJUSD board expand to a 7-member board, up from five previously, as the district also transitioned to electing school board members by trustee areas. That year saw three out of four teachers union-endorsed candidates lose their bid for a seat on the board, with three newcomers joining the board.

The Area 7 school board seat largely covers Citrus Heights, except for several portions of the city south of Greenback Lane and east of Mariposa Avenue. The seat became vacant when Steve Miller passed away unexpectedly while in office, with the board subsequently voting to fill the vacancy by special election, rather than through an appointment process.

To vote in the special election, vote-by-mail ballots can be returned at either of two drop box locations at Citrus Heights City Hall and the Rusch Park Community Center, or at the Voter Registration and Elections office in south Sacramento.

An in-person vote center will also be open from Oct. 28 to Nov. 7, at the Crosswoods Community Center, located at 6742 Auburn Blvd., from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, with extended hours of 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day. City Hall will not serve as a vote center this year, but ballots can be dropped off at City Hall 24 hours a day, according to the county’s elections website. Hours are more restrictive at the Rusch Park drop-off site.

Voters can view the campaign websites for each candidate below:

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