With almost all precincts reporting, Foothill-De Anza Community College District Board of Trustees incumbent Laura Casas and challengers Peter Landsberger and Gilbert Wong appear to have secured three open seats on the board, according to unofficial election results from the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.
Casas, the sole incumbent in the race, led with 22.4 percent of the vote, or 40,242, as of 8 a.m. Wednesday morning, with 224 of 227 precincts counted. She thanked her supporters after early results were released Tuesday evening at an election party at the Garden Court Hotel in Palo Alto.
Landsberger, a Los Altos resident and member of the Foothill-De Anza Foundation board, trailed Casas Wednesday morning with 20.3 percent of the vote, or 36,492 votes.
Wong, a Cupertino city councilman, held a tight lead over former De Anza College student and student-trustee Patrick Ahrens throughout early results. As of Wednesday morning, Wong had 34,441 votes, close to 2,000 more than Ahrens did.
Casas, a Mountain View resident, said in an interview Wednesday morning that her victory felt like an affirmation of the community college district's performance in recent years and the work the board and district staff have done despite challenges retaining enrollment and finding funds for expensive job training programs.
"I think (the results) are a testament to the good things we do in the district," she said.
In the past, Casas ran for the board but came up short; she was later appointed out of a field of candidates to fill a vacancy. This was the first truly contested election, Casas said; all six candidates were "tough competition" and well-qualified. Ahrens in particular, Casas said, showed "tremendous" potential and leadership and has strong political prospects for the future.
Landsberger, a Los Altos resident, said Wednesday morning that he was "gratified, pleased and proud" with the results, which were dampened somewhat by the results of the presidential election. The national results only underscore the importance of the trustees' role as a board over the next four years, Landsberger said.
"It raises serious questions about how we prepare our young people in a society that hopefully has inclusivity," he said.
The election marked Landsberger's first campaign for an elected office, which he said was an invigorating opportunity to go out to the public and communicate what the colleges do for the community. He said didn't relish the campaign-spending side of the election but saw it as a sort of necessary evil in a district so large.
Wong consistently led in campaign fundraising throughout the race, ultimately raising more than $60,000.
Wong, a product of local community colleges, wrote in an email that he was "humble(d) and honor(ed)" to be elected.
"I got my start in life at a community college and now I look forward to being your education advocate for the students at Foothill and De Anza Colleges," he wrote.
Former Cupertino Councilman Orrin Mahoney failed to win a seat, garnering about 13 percent of the vote, as did former Foothill College employee Eric Rosenthal. Rosenthal pulled in about 7 percent support.
The Foothill-De Anza district serves 64,000 students each year and encompasses Mountain View, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Stanford and parts of Saratoga and San Jose. The six candidates were vying for three open seats. Trustees Betsy Bechtel and Joan Barram have reached their term limits.