Political Notebook

Fresno Unified candidates gear up for campaign season

Fresno Unified school board hopefuls are turning their eyes to November, with Monday marking the start of the official filing period for soon-to-be candidates.

Several current trustees have indicated they’ll run again. Four seats are up for grabs, with only Trustee Michelle Asadoorian declining a shot at another term. Candidates can file official papers between July 14 and Aug. 8.

Trustee Christopher De La Cerda made his plans official Friday. This is his first time campaigning for the McLane High representation-area seat that he was appointed to in 2012 to replace Tony Vang. At that time, Vang resigned his post amid allegations he lived outside the area he was elected to represent.

De La Cerda said Thursday he had to squeeze “a four-year term into just this last year and a half,” and that he’d “like to continue the work we started.”

The former teacher has worked to be a voice for special needs students and English learners, pushing during recent board meetings for more school translators and special education funding. He’s been mostly a quiet presence on the board, but said he’s worked diligently behind the scenes to support the district’s vocational education program and secure bigger classroom budgets for teachers.

He’s also made a routine out of walking his neighborhood streets, he said, talking with constituents about their priorities. That’s a practice he’ll continue as he launches into full campaign mode, he said.

School board President and veteran Trustee Valerie Davis said she also intends to run again. Davis, who represents the Sunnyside High region, will kick off her campaign in the coming weeks with fundraisers and meet-and-greets, she said Friday. Trustee Cal Johnson has previously said he’ll leap into the race, but did not immediately return phone messages left by The Bee.

A few fresh faces are entering the ring, with at least one matchup expected in Johnson’s southwest Fresno representation area.

Debbie Darden, a businesswoman and Fresno native, announced her candidacy against Johnson in February. The Golden Westside Planning Committee chairwoman hasn't made any public appearances since her initial announcement. She’ll start campaigning once she files her papers next week, she said Friday.

A McLane High graduate is De La Cerda’s only public challenger so far. Steven Cardona made his plans public during a school board meeting in mid-May.

Businessman Brooke Ashjian is looking to fill the Bullard High region seat being vacated by Asadoorian. Ashjian already has racked up several bigwig endorsements -- including one from Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer -- and said Friday he’ll focus on truancy and vocational education if he’s elected.