Local Elections

Yolo candidate backs into apparent education board win

Matt Taylor woke up Monday, Aug. 11, convinced he had made a big mistake.

The previous Friday, Taylor had filed campaign papers and a candidate’s statement to run for the Yolo County Board of Education. But then Taylor, director of research for the California Charter Schools Association and a former state education official, had second thoughts about his decision over the weekend.

He realized he didn’t have the money to run a campaign. He thought he would be better off coaching Little League and focusing on his three kids and his “beautiful wife” while volunteering on the board of his kids’ charter school. So he contacted the Yolo County elections office and told officials to remove his name from the ballot – please. But it was too late.

So Wednesday morning, the day after the Nov. 4 election, Taylor, 37, of West Sacramento woke up to a bit of a surprise. Short of an unexpected reversal from some uncounted mail ballots, Taylor now appears to be the duly elected Area 1 trustee on the Yolo County Board of Education, and he plans to take the seat.

Taylor defeated incumbent board trustee Xavier Gamez by a vote margin of 2,641 to 2,326, based on Tuesday night’s election returns. Upon certification of his victory by county election officials, he is due to be sworn in Dec. 9.

“It’s the improbable victory,” Taylor said Thursday, with still a twinge of uncertainty over it all. “It still hasn’t been finalized. So it’s going to be close, but it should be fine. I’m excited.”

Taylor never spent a dime on any campaign, beyond the initial filing fee. Though he wasn’t able to get his name removed from the ballot, he was allowed to pull his campaign statement from the voters’ guide.

The incumbent, Gamez, who works as assistant director of career services at Kaplan College, didn’t submit a campaign statement. So voters were left with the choice of two candidates who both passed on offering arguments for their qualifications. Gamez was unavailable for comment.

Taylor had felt he could do the job. He has a master’s degree in public policy from Pepperdine University. And before working for the California Charter Schools Association in Sacramento, he had spent a decade working in the state Department of Education, serving as an administrator in the evaluation, research and analysis division and working on the state high school exit exam and alternative education programs.

But that weekend after entering the Board of Education race, Taylor said, he tried to withdraw “because it looked like there were going to be multiple candidates and there was going to be an expensive and big campaign.

“I didn’t want to go down that path,” he said. “I decided to sit this one out. I called the county elections office and tried to get my name taken off – it was too late.”

Then in mid-October, Taylor said, he had an epiphany. He noticed there were two names on the ballot, including himself, and little noticeable campaigning for the seat. On Oct. 15, he set up a Facebook page – Taylor4schools.

He started posting about the potential opportunity as a county Board of Education trustee for “ensuring the academic and fiscal accountability for all the school districts in our county.” He began to tout the importance of supporting “our students” in acquiring “critical skills” in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

By October 30, he was posting, “Election Day is only 5 days away” and putting out links for local polling place information.

He realized he had been right in wanting to run in the first place.

“I loved education policy,” Taylor said. “I love education data and research. I thought the county (education) office would be a great way to use my skills to help the community. I thought it would be a fun time.”

So now he has won, or at least it looks that way. But he is still having a hard time saying so.

“I don’t know. We’ll see when the votes are counted,” Taylor said. “I don’t expect it to change. But stranger things have happened. We all remember Bush-Gore 2000, right?”

Call The Bee’s Peter Hecht, (916)326-5539.