Local Election

Challenger Pao Yang closes in on incumbent Eric Payne for State Center board seat

Eric Payne, left, and Pao Yang
Eric Payne, left, and Pao Yang

Educator Pao Yang has sheared a 650-vote election week deficit to just 140 votes in his bid to unseat Eric Payne for the Area 2 seat on the State Center Community College District Board of Trustees.

Still, Yang’s attempt to win is daunting.

According to the Fresno County elections website, there still are about 1,000 votes left to count. However, only a portion of these are from voters within Area 2. Given that there are five candidates in the race, Yang likely would need to win almost all of the remaining votes to close the gap.

Fresno County Clerk Brandi Orth said the remaining votes will be tallied and included in an update Wednesday, and the election will be certified on Dec. 6.

On Monday, Yang said he was optimistic but had hoped he would have overtaken Payne by Saturday’s update. He also said he was disappointed with Payne for failing to submit required election financial documents in a timely fashion.

“We’ve been closing the gap every time (a new update comes out),” Yang said. “We were hoping voters would see that my experience in education would really benefit this community.”

Yang has a background as both a teacher and an administrator at DeVry University and ITT Technical Institute in Clovis.

Payne said he was grateful to the voters and those who supported his reelection.

As of Saturday, Payne had 10,996 votes – about 27 percent of all votes cast in the area. Yang received 10,856 – also about 27 percent. Cherella Nicholson, an advocate and project coordinator, was in third with 7,365 (18 percent). Businesswoman Paulina Miranda had 6,192 (15 percent), and attorney Catherine Amador received 5,330 (13 percent).

According to campaign documents, Payne received just over $10,000 in donations. Yang raised more than three times that – $33,000, most of which came from $100 to $1,000 donations from members of Fresno’s Southeast Asian community. Nicholson raised more than $23,000. Amador received just over $16,000, and Miranda had less than $3,000.

The board oversees the four-county district, which includes Fresno City College, Reedley College and Clovis Community College.