Local businessman and activist, Belal Dalati, has successfully helped lead a coalition of community leaders representing a broad political spectrum to unseat Harald Martin, a controversial school board member appointed to fill a seat vacated by the death of Denise Reinking-Mansfield.
Throughout his career, Martin has been a polarizing figure.
“Diversity is a killer. We’re going to have an enclave of Muslims here, an enclave of radical Hispanics here, an enclave of blacks here—and everyone will be fighting for what should have been voted for. But there will no longer be votes; there will be bullets,” Martin declared at anti-immigrant meeting, according to a recent OC Weekly article.
The Anaheim Union High School District board appointed Martin despite opposition from parents, students, neighborhood leaders, elected officials and despite being overwhelmingly rejected by voters. He came in seventh out of eight candidates in the most recent election and lost by a landslide as an incumbent in 2002.
The person who received the next highest number of votes in November's election was Jordan Brandman, whom many coalition leaders, including Dalati, are supporting in the special election.
"I have school age children and my heart goes out to all parents whose children attend the Anaheim Union High school District. This is a large district that includes Buena Park, Stanton, Cypress, and La Palma. This is really about the safety of our children and we must stand up for all children if we really believe in the values of America. I am thankful to Councilwoman Lorri Galloway and Mayor Pringle for their support on this vital issue. Now we must ensure that we elect a worthy replacement," Dalati said.
According to Amin David, chairman of Los Amigos of Orange County, the coalition submitted over 4,000 signatures of voters which will be certified by the Orange County Registrar. Only 2300 signatures were needed to unseat Martin. The seat, once vacated, will be up for special election at a date determined by the remaining trustees –but no longer than 120 days after certification of signatures.
This is neither the first time Martin serves on the board, nor the first time he stirs controversy.
In his past service, Martin called for billing Mexico for the cost of educating illegal immigrants in Anaheim classrooms. In addition, he pushed for school programs that would expand a police presence on campus and force students to prove their legal residency.
In 1999, Martin criticized a girl who was sexually abused by a teacher at Cypress High School, telling newspapers: "If both parties kept it secret ... I think there's some culpability on the victim's part."