Extremist Silicon Valley school board candidate faces last-minute challengers after his views air

When it was learned that a conservative candidate who opposes same-sex marriage and supports the presence of Christian principles in public schools was running unopposed for the Morgan Hill School Board, phones across the city began ringing .

Because the incumbent was not running for the seat, the deadline to find another candidate was extended by five days – until Wednesday at 5 p.m.

Local officials and families began recruiting after The Chronicle highlighted the race in an article about the number of unopposed applicants to the Bay Area school board, said Claudia Rossi, a member of the county school board. Santa Clara.

On Tuesday afternoon, Rossi drove a retired school librarian, Terri Knutson, to county offices to drop off her application materials.

A third candidate, lawyer Armando Benavides, has also registered to run for the seat.

“Happy is not the word,” Rossi said. “I am relieved.”

Knutson and Benavides could not immediately be reached for comment.

Dennis Delisle, who wrote a book in 2012 outlining his beliefs about society and public life, condemned homosexuality and divorce and said modern descendants of slaves are “so much better off” than if their ancestors” had been left behind in the country from which they came”. ”

In a separate passage, he questioned black voting habits, saying many voted for skin color instead of Christian principles, while noting that there were “a lot of whites, browns and scabs who have a slave mentality”.

On Thursday, Delisle said he was wrongly tried.

“I am a Christian and I oppose everything that God hates,” he said. “I can love the person, but object to what they are doing which I believe will hurt them in the future.”

Delisle’s background had flown under the radar, Rossi said, and without a challenger he would have automatically won the seat after Wednesday’s deadline. The election for the Zone 3 school board seat would not even have been on the ballot, according to state election law.

“It’s an example of why we have to be very vigilant and we have to be especially vigilant about who files on school boards,” Rossi said. “I don’t think people realize that there are national forces now investing a lot of money to get far-right individuals to run specifically for the school board.”

Still, Delisle is one of a long list of Bay Area school board candidates running unopposed.

In many cities in California and the Bay Area, elections for school board seats were once held citywide, with the top voting candidates being elected to the available seats. But after legal challenges linked to a lack of diversity, many cities have dismantled school boards in seats for the geographical areas.

In Morgan Hill, each of the seven school board members represents an area comprising just over 6,000 of the town’s 45,000 residents. The number of residents in each area eligible to run for office is an even smaller number – at best a few thousand people.

This increased the number of unopposed candidates, Rossi said, an “unintended consequence” of school boards trying to diversify.

“There are now a number of people on school boards (in Santa Clara County) who don’t have a single person voting for them,” she said. “There are neighborhoods that haven’t voted for their trustee in years.”

So far, Morgan Hill has not sought to reduce the number of council members to five – as is the case in many other small communities – to create wider represented areas and reduce the likelihood of candidates without opposition.

The concern over the lack of people interested in running for school boards has long been that fringe candidates would serve without any voter verification, Rossi said.

“What we feared would happen,” she said, “is happening.”

Jill Tucker is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: jtucker@sfchronicle.comTwitter: @Jilltucker

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