Political notebook: Yovino looks to have every advantage in Fresno Co. schools superintendent race

Posted on December 24, 2013 

Appointed Fresno County Superintendent of Schools Jim Yovino appears to hold most, if not all, of the cards as he campaigns to get the appointed tag removed — by winning a four-year term to the elected position.

For one, he’s already on the job, which makes him a de facto incumbent. And, historically speaking, incumbents are rarely defeated.

In May, Yovino — then a deputy superintendent of schools for the county — was chosen by Fresno County Board of Education trustees to replace retiring Superintendent Larry Powell, who was his boss. Powell left the job more than a year and a half before his term was up.

It was Powell who recommended Yovino to fill the remainder of his term in office, and now Yovino's face and words are all over the county education office's website. Even better for Yovino, Powell has endorsed him in next June’s primary election — and has contributed to his campaign.

Beyond Powell, Yovino has a list of high-profile endorsements. Among them: Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, Fresno County Supervisor Henry R. Perea, retired Sanger Unified Superintendent Marc Johnson and Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer.

And, best of all for Yovino, he’s unopposed — at least so far.

If some of this scenario sounds familiar, consider this:

Powell is endorsing Yovino, a deputy superintendent, as his replacement. In 2006, when Powell first ran for the post, he was endorsed by then County Superintendent of Schools Pete Mehas.

At the time, Powell was a deputy superintendent.

The county schools superintendent election could be lost in an avalanche of high-profile races next year, not just governor and other statewide offices, but competitive local contests such as Fresno County supervisor and Fresno City Council.

But the county schools superintendent job is anything but low key. The superintendent oversees the Office of Education’s services to the county’s 33 school districts, including schools for incarcerated students and migrant and job-training education.

-- John Ellis

Fresno waits — and waits — for federal judge nomination

U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii told the Obama administration in November 2011 that he was going to take senior status, a heads-up for officials to start seeking a replacement.

He officially moved to senior status — a move akin to retirement but one that allows a judge to continue hearing cases — 14 months ago.

And now, as 2013 gives way to 2014, judicial employees at Fresno's federal courthouse, still laboring under one of the highest caseloads in the nation, anxiously await Ishii's replacement.

As they do, multiple legal sources in Fresno say that the nomination is at the White House awaiting action from Obama.

Under a long-standing arrangement, California's two senators — Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer — trade off making recommendations for filling federal judicial vacancies in the state. It's Boxer's turn to find Ishii's replacement.

A screening committee set up by Boxer to vet candidates long ago finished its work, said its chairman, Fresno attorney Don Fischbach.

Boxer's office declined, as a matter of policy, to discuss the nomination process.

— John Ellis

It's officially 2014 election season

Let the 2014 election season begin. Officially, at least.

Though candidates have been raising money, lining up endorsements, hiring campaign staff — and in some cases even walking precincts — Friday was the first day that "signatures in lieu" petitions are available for politicians and political hopefuls. This date always falls 158 days before the June primary election.

"This is not a required act," Fresno County Clerk Brandi Orth said. "But a lot of people use it to get out there and get known. This is a first act that they may or may not use."

Political candidates seek registered voters to sign the petitions, which can be used to reduce filing fees related to the election. The more signatures, the more money that can be saved on the fees.

Also, the signatures can be used toward a candidate's nomination.

The period to turn in signatures ends at various times, depending on the office being sought.

The official campaign filing period for the June 3 primary — when candidates actually sign up to run — goes from Feb. 10 to March 7.

— John Ellis


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