Wedded to a Common Commitment : Couples Seek School Posts

Times Staff Writer

Politics is said to make strange bedfellows, but for some candidates seeking seats on school boards in Orange County there has been plenty of pillow talk before Tuesday’s election.

Among the hopefuls are two married couples running for posts on the same school boards and one candidate seeking a seat on a board where his wife is already a member.

The ballots include three candidate pairings: Don and Judy McCormack in Anaheim, Helen and Danny Wood in Los Alamitos, and Rita and Robert Zintgraff in Irvine. Robert Mohan is running in Fountain Valley, where his wife, Carol, is a board member.


‘Not Competing’

Although the Woods are both on the Los Alamitos Unified School District ballot, Danny was forced to drop out because he could not commit the time required for the campaign, Helen said.

Unlike most political candidates, the couples do not view each other as competition. Some said they hope to double their chances for election by both running for office.

“We know a lot of people in the area and figured either one or the other of us could win. The name Zintgraff isn’t too common,” Rita Zintgraff said.

Concerned About Schools

All the couples said they became interested in running for school board posts because they have children in the school system or children who graduated from district schools.

“They (the schools) have my kids for most of the day,” Judy McCormack said. “I’m very concerned about what happens to them when they aren’t home.”

Some also said that, in an age where women and men have an equal opportunity to get elected, they did not see why only one half of the couple should get the chance.


Among the couples, only Rita Zintgraff has previously run for public office, seeking a seat last year on the Irvine Ranch Water District II board.

‘Chance to Do Something’

In Anaheim, the McCormacks said they first discussed running for the school board three years ago. Don said, “We wanted to get involved and we thought this was a good chance to do something together.”

Added Judy: “After helping three generations of kids in this town (Anaheim), we thought we’d be shoo-ins.”

Don is a union representative for the Assn. of Western Pulp and Paper Workers, and has coached football and baseball in city youth leagues. Judy, who sells real estate from her home, has also been active in the sports programs.

They are on the Anaheim Union High School District ballot with six other candidates, including three incumbents seeking reelection. There are three open seats in the district.

A Learning Experience

For the McCormacks, the campaign has been a learning experience. During a recent candidates’ forum, for example, Don admitted that he was not well-informed about some issues, such as equal access to schools by religious groups.


In her opening remarks, Judy did not spout statistics, rely on buzzwords such as “traditional values” or quote famous philosophers like some of the other candidates. Instead, standing a bit too close to the microphone and chewing a wad of gum, she spoke about raising her sons and working with children in city sports programs.

The two offered differing approaches for instilling motivation in students. Don, who admits that he enjoyed sports in high school more than studying, said extracurricular activities are the route to attract students to the classroom.

Judy said her priority lay in reading, writing and arithmetic. Students should participate in other pastimes if there is time left over in the day, she added.

The couple also disagreed on the use of state lottery monies: Judy said revenue from the lottery should be used for scholarships and teacher bonuses, while Don said the money should be used to bolster extracurricular activities.

Self-Sufficiency Stressed

Beyond these differences, however, the two agreed on most education issues. “Schools should teach children how to be adults. They should teach self-sufficiency,” Don said while Judy nodded in agreement.

In the Fountain Valley School District, school board candidate Robert Mohan and his wife, incumbent Carol Mohan, said they have received flak from other candidates. Robert, two incumbents and a businesswoman are vying for three seats on the board.


Fountain Valley school board president Roger Belgen, who is one of the incumbents, believes there should be a law against husbands and wives seeking office on the same board.

“It (their joint victory) is a heartbeat away from one family controlling a public organization,” he said.

Asked About Differences

At a recent candidates’ night, Robert Mohan was asked how his views differed from his wife’s. “If you want to know what she thinks ask her,” he responded, adding that the question was meant to embarrass him because “they can’t find anything negative about me.”

Carol Mohan said that having her husband on the board would be no different than friends or people from the same neighborhood who serve together.

Robert said he is running to bring a fresh viewpoint to the board, not to complement his wife. “I am a very independent person,” he said. “I’m running as Robert Mohan, not on her name. Besides, I’ve had that name 42 years, she’s only had it 19.”

The challenger, who is a sales manager, added that he would approach school problems from a business standpoint. “I would like to streamline that board and get it working like a well-oiled Swiss watch,” he said.


Opposes Teacher Layoffs

The Mohans do have philosophical differences on some issues, he added. His wife, a former teacher, strongly opposes laying off teachers to cut costs, but Robert said he would consider it as a last resort.

Carol, who is midway through her second four-year term, has said she will not seek a third term in 1987. If her husband is elected, she said, the couple would serve together on the board for two years.

In the Irvine Unified School District, the Zintgraffs are among nine candidates running for two open seats. After 25 years of marriage, Rita Zintgraff said that she and her husband are “pretty compatible.”

The Zintgraffs have kept a low profile during the race and did not make any joint public appearances. Robert Zintgraff was on a business trip and could not be reached for comment, but his wife said they decided to run because they realize the importance of a good education.

No Feuding Expected

Rita, a travel agent, added that she would like the district to continue programs that helped prepare their two sons for college.

All of the couples running this Tuesday said they do not anticipate feuding over issues if both are elected. They also said that if one spouse wins the other would not be jealous.


As for the public’s reaction, Robert Mohan said: “I can’t see that it’s any kind of issue. There are many things that are more important to the district.

“There should be no confusion for voters between my wife and me. My handouts have my picture on them.”