Election results were certified Friday after vote totals from the June 14 primary election continued to change over the last two weeks as mail ballots were received and counted.
Newcomer Brenda Zamora, a first-time candidate who was trailing in third place — sometimes by just a handful of votes — ultimately finished in second place to incumbent Irene Cepeda in District D.
As the initial, unofficial election results showed her in third place, Zamora said she started receiving calls from supporters and other candidates offering her condolences.
“It’s not over,” she said she responded.
The school board race is nonpartisan and open to all voters. Since no candidate received a majority of the vote in the primary, the two candidates with the most votes will face off in the general election on Nov. 8.
The candidates who are elected in November will serve on a seven-member board that oversees the fifth-largest school district in the country, serving more than 300,000 students.
Two incumbents, Cepeda and Linda Cavazos, emerged as the front-runners in this month’s primary, while another, Danielle Ford, finished second in her race.
In District D, the seat representing the most schools in the district, Cepeda narrowly finished ahead of Zamora with 26.9 percent of the vote to Zamora’s 25.6 percent. Steven Conger trailed them with 24.7 percent.
District D, which encompasses downtown and the northeast valley, has more than 70 schools serving more than 57,000 students.
Cepeda, who serves as a project director for Nevada State College’s education school, has faced criticism for her vote to first fire, and then rehire, Superintendent Jesus Jara last year.
She is running on a platform of returning to a “boring” method of board governance in which student outcomes are a majority of the focus at board meetings.
Cepeda has not returned repeated requests for comment about the election results.
Zamora works for Make It Work Nevada, a progressive advocacy group that organizes women of color around issues like paid family leave and pay equity. She is running on a platform of improving communications from the district and advocating for working families.
Zamora said Monday that she had to remind herself several times over the last two weeks that votes were still being counted.
“I don’t think I ever had grasped how (mail-in ballots) would change election night and the idea around election night,” she said. “I think I shocked a lot of folks.”
In District F, the most crowded school board primary on the ballot this year, former Democratic state Assemblywoman Irene Bustamante Adams took the lead over nine opponents with 22 percent of the vote. Her nearest opponent was incumbent Danielle Ford with 18.2 percent.
District F encompasses southwest Las Vegas and has 48 schools serving approximately 40,000 students.
Bustamante Adams serves as the deputy director and chief strategy officer for a local workforce development board where Jara is currently a member. She said she was humbled by the early results.
In the run-up to the general election, she said she would work to stay focused on her message of ensuring access and equity for all students throughout the district.
“I think when I was knocking on doors, the parents and the voters, on their top of mind was the professionalism that they would like to see in the school district,” she said.
Ford owns an online marketing company and has two children in the district. The incumbent has been critical of Jara and various aspects of the district’s operations over the last four years.
Ford said she was encouraged by the results and that voters of District F continued to have faith in her. She said whoever is elected to represent District F in the fall also would determine who will be the superintendent next year.
Jara’s current contract with the district expires in January.
“I feel encouraged that the voters want me to move on to the general,” Ford said. “Now that it’s down to two people, I think voters will be paying a little bit more attention.”
In District G, which encompasses the east valley, incumbent Linda Cavazos finished with 37.3 percent of the vote. Her nearest challenger was Greg Wieman with 17.3 percent.
District G has 48 schools serving approximately 41,000 students.
Cavazos, who runs a private counseling practice, served as board president last year and was one of three board members, along with Ford, who voted to fire Jara as superintendent and voted against reinstating him.
Cavazos said that, if elected, she would continue asking the hard questions in the district, concerning everything from school safety to questioning Jara’s performance.
“What I’m hoping to really focus on is trying to regain trust from the community that they have a unified board of trustees,” she said. “I’d like to see a unified board focused on our student outcomes.”
Wieman was a teacher for 21 years and an administrator for 17 years in Michigan, Colorado and Nevada, including his time as a district superintendent in Eureka. He is running on a platform of improving student outcomes and addressing the crisis of school safety.
The candidate attributed his placing in the primary to “the appeal of perceived competence” that he provides to voters in District G. Looking ahead to November’s general election, and if the primary results hold, Wieman said he expects to capture a sizable chunk of the votes that went to the other candidates, despite being a first-time candidate and a novice to politics.
“The constituency in our district is discontented with the current incumbents,” he said.