WATERFORD -- Only 45 votes separated the three candidates early today for two seats available on the Waterford Unified School District board, with two challengers leading an incumbent.
With 1,293 votes counted, Lorraine West was first with 458, or 35.5 percent. Elisa Godoy, West's campaign partner, was trailing incumbent Vicky Johnson for the second seat.
Godoy had 413 votes, or 31.9 percent, to Johnson's 418, or 32.3 percent.
West, a secretary at Roberts Ferry School, said she didn't expect to be the front-runner.
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"All three candidates are capable people. Vicky, being on the board for such a long time, has a lot of experience," West said.
The close race was no surprise to Johnson.
"It's Waterford," she said via phone from her home, where she was surrounded by family and friends. "Elections are almost always close. Last time, I won by 13 votes. That was eight years ago."
Waterford has a history of close elections. Ties two years ago in the school board race and in the 2002 mayoral race were decided by drawing playing cards.
Johnson figures there was not enough on the ballot to draw more voters Tuesday.
"I always wish there were more voters," she said.
Competing but cooperating
Godoy did not expect such a close race.
"We sensed the community was ready for something new. We were hoping the two new people would get the seats; we still have hope," she said.
Although they were in competition on the ballot, Godoy and West campaigned together.
"We knocked on many, many doors together so people could meet us face-to-face," West said. "We campaigned together. But once we got on the board, we'd be independent."
West speculated that her community ties as a almond grower in a rural area may have given her an edge. She called her first campaign "real positive."
West's new ideas will be focused on negotiating a way to finance a new elementary school in a growing community. Waterford city officials are working toward adding a 1,600-home development on the city's east side.
"I think the classrooms are a little over full," West said. "They're planning on building more houses; there won't be enough room for their kids."
Bee staff writer Eve Hightower can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2382.