RIVERBANK -- Incumbents were leading the Riverbank Unified School District board race early today.
John Mitchell, Jr. took an early lead that narrowed later to 354 votes, or 25.3 percent, out of 1,398 votes counted Tuesday night. Pamela Floyd earned 344 votes, or 24.6 percent.
Newcomer Steven Costalupes had been closely trailing Floyd Tuesday night, but fell to number four out of five early today with 279 votes, or 20 percent, in a race that pitted five candidates for two seats. Kevin McBride- Luman moved to the number three spot Wednesday with 281 votes, 20 percent.
"We'll just see what happens," said Floyd, who has been on the board for two years.
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Mitchell figured his 12 years on the board helped him in this election.
"I feel very fortunate and happy the people of Riverbank voted for me. I'm very fortunate for all the hard work people put in for me," he said. "I've just been up-front and honest with people."
Once he is sworn in again in December, Mitchell will turn his attention back to the new high school gym and elementary school being funded with bond money.
"I will have been with that from start to end," he said.
PTA case, bond concerns
Mitchell also is concerned about an estimated $14,000 that allegedly was stolen last year from the Rio Altura Parent Teacher Association. Riverbank police are investigating the case and will turn it over this week to the district attorney's office, which will decide how to proceed with the case.
"I'll be checking that investigation closely," he said.
While no groups hosted a political forum to give candidates the opportunity to field questions and clarify their opinions, a handful of issues played key roles in the school board race. They included a dual-language charter school that opened this year called Riverbank Language Academy, how the district spent bond money earmarked for new facilities, and speculation that one candidate, McBride-Luman, did not meet the residency requirement.
McBride-Luman, who said he moved to Riverbank in time to establish residency for the election, gained 149 votes, or 16.5 percent. The fifth candidate, Cohen Blount, had 105 votes, or 11.6 percent.
Mitchell said he tried to avoid the rumors and negativity in the race.
"There were a lot of very negative statements. I had signs pulled and stuff vandalized, but I took the high road and didn't let it affect me," he said.
Floyd and Costalupes also kept mum.
"I ran clean," Floyd said when asked how she felt about the race.
Costalupes said questions surrounding McBride-Luman's residency were a surprise.
"Even if he doesn't win, (if his residency is not valid) that could have an effect on the election," he said.
Bee staff writer Eve Hightower can be reached at 578-2382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.