Incumbent Jeff Flores and newcomer Joey O’Connell were leading in their bids for seats on the Kern High School District board Wednesday morning.

Flores, who represents east Bakersfield, had 52.9 percent of the vote, ahead of challenger Librado “Lee” Vasquez, who had 46.4 percent Wednesday morning.

O’Connell finished with 52.5 percent to 46.8 percent lead over Jennifer Bloomquist in his campaign to replace outgoing Trustee Chad Vegas, who represents a large swath of southwest Bakersfield.

In the Kern Community College District race, incumbent trustees Kay Meek and Dennis Beebe had commanding leads over their competitors, Samantha Mayo and Alex Hernandez.

Meek had 36.6 percent, Beebe 25.8 percent, Hernandez 21.2 and Mayo 15.9 percent. Meek and Beebe, the top two finishers in the race, will continue representing Area 3 on the college district board, which stretches north from Lebec through southwest Bakersfield and encompasses Lamont and Arvin.

And over in the Panama-Buena Vista Union School District contest, where four candidates were vying for three seats, Rain for Rent owner J.P. Lake led the pack with 27.4 percent. Incumbent Dean Haddock finished second with 26.4 percent, and agricultural salesman Greg White, who was appointed in May when longtime trustee Linda Brenner resigned, came in third at 24.2 percent.

Victor Morones, the only educator among the group, had 21.7 percent of the vote.

The Area 2 KHSD race was among the most contentious of the school board contests, playing out against the backdrop of several district scandals.

It pitted Flores, who has been a dissenting voice on the board and who vowed to improve district transparency, against Vasquez, a KHSD administrator and former East Bakersfield High School principal with strong name recognition.

Flores, first elected in 2014, has vowed to fight the status quo at the district. That includes trying to reverse the long-running practice of hiring top-level superintendents from within KHSD instead of scouring the nation for qualified candidates.

Vasquez said his intimate knowledge of the district would serve him well in office and he’d work to reduce class sizes by aggressively hiring teachers — a tough challenge given the shortage districts across the state are facing.

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