Conservative Activists Make a Play for Orange County Superintendent Seat

Over the past two years, we’ve seen right-wing activists show up en masse to school board meetings to protest school closures, masks, vaccines, Q Anon conspiracies, and Critical Race Theory. Over the past year, that activism has become more organized. Bolstered by the recall of three progressive members of the San Francisco School Board in February, Republicans realize they can do more than just criticize; they can make a play for office. 

Across Southern California and the state, right-leaning activists are challenging incumbents, either directly or through surrogates. Many of these races will take place in November. But on June 7, conservatives will have a chance to score a major victory if they succeed in unseating longtime Orange County Superintendent Al Mijares.

Mijares was appointed by the Orange County Board of Education in 2012 and ran unopposed in 2014 and 2018. This is the first election in over 20 years where Orange County voters will have a choice for county superintendent — the person who manages the local Department of Education and its $300 million budget. 

Mijares and the school board have clashed for the past three years over everything from the budget and legal representation to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the board’s conservative majority is supporting his opponent, Stefan Bean. 

Bean is a former charter school superintendent who now serves on the board of the Orange County Classical Academy. The charter school program is affiliated with conservative Hillsdale College and run by Dr. Jeff Barke, a COVID-19 denialist-provocateur and husband of Board of Education president Mari Barke.

Bean says parents have been unfairly maligned and deserve a greater voice in their children’s education. He has claimed without evidence that kindergartners are being taught sex education in Orange County. He opposes Critical Race Theory and COVID-19 mandates. His website says he is in favor of local control, school choice and “classical education.” 

Bean is endorsed by the the local Republican Party, the Lincoln Club of Orange County, controversial Placentia-Yorba Linda School District Trustee Leandra Blades, and the Orange County Board of Education’s conservative majority: Mari Barke (Area 2); Dr. Ken Williams (Area 3); Tim Shaw (Area 4); and Lisa Sparks (Area 5).

Mijares has the support of much of the establishment, including Sheriff Don Barnes, Congressman Lou Correa, and the superintendents of the Anaheim Union High School and Santa Ana Unified school districts. He has primarily touted his experience in the run-up to June 7.

Orange County Board of Education Districts 2, 4 and 5 are also on the ballot. You can read about those races here.

Want more local election coverage? Check out our June 7 Primary Local Election Guide


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