ENCINITAS — A new candidate has made an eleventh-hour entry into the San Dieguito Union High School District’s Trustee Area 1 race after the sudden withdrawal of incumbent Trustee Maureen “Mo” Muir and subsequent recruitment efforts by local Republicans.
With board conservative stronghold Muir announcing her withdrawal just days before the filing period deadline citing family obligations, it looked for a moment like former Encinitas Union School District trustee and Democrat Rimga Viskanta may end up being the sole candidate in the high-profile race.
However, local businessman, baseball coach and district parent David Carattini pulled papers just two days before the final filing deadline on Aug. 17, and is now officially qualified as a candidate. Carattini said he had entertained the idea of running for the board for some years, but decided to make it a reality after hearing about Muir’s withdrawal.
“It was good timing to actually enter into this election. This is something I’ve wanted to do, and education has always been something that I’m very passionate about,” said Carattini, a former Costco executive and longtime little league coach.
While school board positions are defined as non-partisan, politics have undoubtedly spilled into the San Dieguito board room and this upcoming election.
The five-person San Dieguito school board has been short one trustee since May, leaving Muir and fellow conservative Trustee Michael Allman frequently voting in unison opposite Democrat board members Julie Bronstein and Katrina Young, causing many motions to fail under a 2-2 vote.
Muir’s lack of endorsement from the San Diego County Republican Party was also speculated to be a driving reason for her withdrawal. Allman called for local Republicans to file for candidacy after she dropped out, sending out thousands of text messages stating that no Republican was running and that he needed “an ally to fight for parents and students.”
“Thank goodness we found Mr. Carattini, a well-respected businessman, athletic coach, and parent who understands the importance of putting parent and student interests first,” Allman told The Coast News. “A lot will be riding on November’s election. Will [we] go back to a Board controlled by special interests, or will we have independent Trustees who put parent and student interests first? Parents know what is at stake, and will support Mr. Carattini.”
The San Diego County GOP has also endorsed Carattini as a candidate on its website, despite him never having run for political office. Carattini, however, made it clear that he is not running as a Republican candidate, does not pay attention to endorsements, and wants to focus on bringing cohesion to the board and prioritizing students over politics.
“I think that there’s not a place for politics in this particular position, and they should not play that sort of role in this particular position,” Carattini said. “The bottom line is, what’s most important is finding common ground and finding a way to communicate, understand and respect differences and look for positive solutions, which are gonna be to the benefit of the teachers and the students. There’s no one that’s going to influence me. I’m my own person and I’m gonna do the right thing.”
As for Viskanta, she said this new competitor will not alter her course, adding that she would be curious to hear Carattini’s reasons for entering so close to the deadline.
“His entry into the race won’t change my focus, which is to get the district back on track of good governance practices, celebrating our school sites’ amazing administrators and students, and trying to build unity and cohesion around what we all care about, which is the students,” she said.