The Passion of Jen K.
Fremont school board candidate’s far-right and religious takes are roiling the city’s politics
ELECTION 2022 PREVIEW
Days until Election Day: 11.
—READING & RIGHTING—Jennifer Kouvaniaris is easily the most controversial candidate on the entire ballot in Alameda County. The Fremont school board candidate has expressed inflammatory opinions about gays in school curriculum, highlighted Critical Race Theory, all the while using her opponent’s vote to remove School Rescource Officers (SROs) from Fremont schools as a cudgel. She has also made no secret about her disdain for teachers’ unions and the overall labor movement.
—Kavouniaris looks and sounds like no other candidate Alameda County has seen in recent years. In this relatively deep blue county, the campaign rhetoric Kavouniaris is using—references to God, pointed jabs as progressive ideology, and overheated homophobic comments on social media—is rarely heard.
“I’m worried about their safety in the classroom and I’m worried about safety in the curriculum,” Kavouniaris said of school children at a candidate forum held by a group that calls itself “Education Not Indoctrination,” a reference to the inclusion of LGBT curriculum in the schools.
—“When I started doing this I had nothing,” she told the audience. “God was my endorsement and He kept nudging my heart and telling me to do this.”
—On the Critical Race Theory, the idea that racism is intrinsic in most parts of society, Kavouniaris believes the concept is “coming through the backdoor” in Fremont schools, but already confusing school children.
—As a first-time candidate, Kavouniaris has certainly showed her inexperience, but has more than made up for it with a charismatic approach that appeals to voters’ basic instincts.
—Whether or not she is successful, Kavouniaris’ aggressive rhetoric appears to have put her opponent, Fremont School Trustee Dianne Jones, on edge. “My opponent voted every chance she could to get the SROs off campus,” Kavouniaris said. “I believe this is reckless and dangerous and I don’t know how someone could consider that at this point with everything we have been through over the last three years.”
—On labor unions, which even in moderate Fremont, hold significant sway, Kavouniaris has brandished uncommonly ruthless rhetoric that any East Bay candidate would never dare utter. Among them, this comment that feels like something you might hear from a candidate in the rural South. “I feel like the unions are hijacked by people that want to destroy America,” she said.
—But Kavouniaris’ right-wing, socially conservative views, are not what has infuriated so many in Fremont’s politics. It’s her repeated and unabashedly homophobic remarks.
—On the Drag Queen Story Hour that has made appearances in several Alameda County cities, Kavouniaris wrote on Facebook, “It was all about kids and how they can suck his you know what. I’m not down with this CRAP!” she wrote. “The grooming is right in front of our eyes.
CASTRO VALLEY SCHOOL BOARD
—THREE’S COMPANY—If you made a Venn Diagram of Castro Valley’s school board election, one circle would be candidate Sara Raymond and the other Tina Sachs. The intermingling area binding the two would be incumbent Castro Valley School Trustee Gary Howard.
—Along Castro Valley Boulevard, which is, by the way, the Wild West of yard sign placement that would undoubtedly be illegal everywhere except in the unincorporated areas, you might notice an odd set of placards.
—Some campaign signs urge voters to choose Raymond and Howard for the two available seats this November. Meanwhile, other campaign signs say to vote for Sachs and Howard. What gives?
—The teachers’ unions are supporting Raymond and Howard, but Howard has long personal ties to Sachs, who is a charter school supporter. It’s unclear whether the teachers have any animosity toward Howard for his support of Sachs. It doesn’t seem so, according to the mailer above sent to Castro Valley voters last weekend.
CHABOT-LAS POSITAS COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT
—WONT BACK DOWN—Luis Reynoso, the Chabot-Las Positas Community College Trustee who said he unwittingly posted a meme that is often used against transgender individuals and faced strong criticism from some LGBTQ students, appeared last week on Newsmax, a far-right cable news channel.
—Reynoso, along with Tom Wong, a Hayward school board candidate, discussed the controversy in which Reynoso maintains he will not back down from the growing criticism.
—The Chabot-Las Positas Board could move for some type of action against Reynoso, such as censure or a public rebuke. Those who watched Reynoso over the years on the Hayward school board know he doesn’t run from controversy.
HAYWARD SCHOOL BOARD
—If growing discontent toward Hayward School Trustee Ken Rawdon is indeed percolating, it doesn’t seem to be bothering him. Rawdon is seeking re-election to one of two at-large seats on the Hayward school board.
—A video compilation of some of his controversial comments made during board meetings includes an admission that as a high school music teacher he paid young girls $50 to “flirts” with boys in order to entice them to join the choir.
—Rawdon is running an ad on social media instructing voters to vote for him and fellow School Trustee April Oquenda, and to the soundrack of Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It.”
ALAMEDA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
—AHOY MATE—A commercial making the rounds on streaming services paid for by the California Apartment Association attempts to mock Alameda County supervisorial candidate Rebecca Kaplan for some of her somewhat eccentric ideas like housing the homeless on cruise ships. Photoshopping a captain’s hat onto Kaplan’s head, of course, is irresistible.
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