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Phantom candidate appears
Trustee-elect Bronson makes first public appearance
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Alexander Bronson, center, listens to the school board meeting Wednesday night. It was his first time to attend a Manteca Unified Board of Education meeting. Behind him at right is Ashley Drain. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Alexander Bronson made his first appearance at a Manteca Unified School board meeting on Wednesday.

Ashley Drain was present at the meeting as well. Both were introduced by Superintendent Jason Messer as the newly elected trustees. Bronson will take over Area 6 which has been represented by board president Don Scholl for the last four years. Drain will represent Area 2 for the outgoing Manuel Medeiros whom she defeated in the Nov. 4 election. Medeiros has been serving on the board for 16 years.

While Drain, a graduate of East Union High School, has attended the board meeting a few times before getting the elected, Bronson admitted he has never been to one prior to Wednesday. Several people in the room who regularly show up at the meetings indicated that evening was the first time they have actually seen Bronson in person, earning him the nickname of “phantom candidate” from a number of voters.

He declined to answer any questions for this story, and explained that he was not going to do so until he is officially on the board. He and Drain will officially take over their seats at the board meeting in December when they will take their oath as elected officials.

The only information Bronson provided, albeit reluctantly, for the newspaper is his contact phone number. During the campaign, requests for interviews were emailed to him and Drain. While Drain promptly responded to that initial contact, and to subsequent contacts after that, Bronson chose not to respond. When reached via telephone at his work place with the Stockton Boys and Girls Club prior to the sending of the email, he quickly ended the interview saying he was busy and did not have time for it.

The only other question Bronson chose to answer was about his attendance at board meetings. He admitted that his appearance on Wednesday was the first one he has ever been to, but he immediately qualified that he has been to other school board meetings in Stockton.

He and Drain did not stay to the end of the meeting.

An inquiry into possible election fraud involving both Bronson and Drain is currently under way. Authorities with the San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters are looking into the legitimacy of the addresses that they provided in their election forms in response to complaints that have been brought to their attention. The complaints revolve around the issue as to whether they resided in the areas they were elected to represent at the time of their campaign and election.

Trustee Sam Fant, who represents the Weston Ranch area, became a party to this inquiry because his name appeared in the two new trustees’ forms filed as the person who can verify the accuracy of the residency information they filed in their candidates’ papers.

Responding to Bulletin reporter Jason Campbell’s story on the question over the two candidates’ residency, the 21-year-old Bronson who described himself as an “educator” in his candidate’s filing, stated in a letter to the editor in the Sept. 6 edition of the paper by writing: “Being only recently returned to the area, it should come as no surprise that I don’t yet have a long established residence. This should not preclude my ability to run for elected office in Manteca.

“My time with the Boys and Girls Club of Stockton was spent actively engaged in the betterment of our youth through education and recreation. I also recognized the dire importance of a quality and engaging school system for the students in our community while working there. I am asking for the opportunity to continue to contribute by helping to address all issues of concern in education to parents, staff, and students.”

Unlike the majority of the candidates – both local and otherwise – in the November 4 elections, Bronson and Drain did not have any campaign signs planted anywhere in the Manteca Unified geographical area.

Asked to what she attributed her victory in the elections, Drain candidly responded, “I did nothing to win this election. I won on my name alone. I didn’t put signs up, nor did I knock on a single door. I don’t have money for that stuff. I won because those who know my name know what I stand for and the diversity I will bring. Those who didn’t know me and still voted for me just wanted change. Really, when you are walking in your calling, people will always be surprised.”