In a closely watched West Sacramento school board race, a union-backed teacher held a nearly 2-to-1 lead over a candidate endorsed by the city's mayor and bankrolled by groups challenging labor power.
The election was considered a test case for national efforts to weaken teachers unions and install board members with an eye toward promoting charter schools and shaking up teacher hiring and firing practices.
Early returns in the special all-mail election showed labor-backed Sarah Kirby-Gonzales had 50.7 percent of votes. She raised just under $30,000 mainly from unions to fill out the last two years of a vacated seat on the tiny Washington Unified School District.
Francisco Castillo, who was endorsed by Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, trailed with 25.9 percent of votes. Castillos campaign raised about $59,000, including a big boost of $35,000 from StudentsFirst, the group founded by Michelle Rhee that seeks to expand charter schools and change teacher hiring practices.
Cabaldon had thrown his weight behind Castillo in a bid to change the direction of the board and improve performance in the diverse school system.
Linh Nguyen came in third place with 14.5 percent. Katherine R. Gales received 5 percent, while Nicholas Scott Turney got 3.9 percent of the ballots.