A teacher who wants to be a candidate for the Merced County Office of Education's superintendent seat is doubling down on her claims she qualifies for the race and is calling for the election office to put her back on the ballot.
Gabby Sanchez, who was initially planned for the ballot, was told last week she did not meet the qualifications required by law. In a statement issued Sunday, Sanchez said the elections have been "hijacked" and she's being mistreated after running an election for four months.
"I am qualified. I was wrongfully removed. I am another Hispanic woman that has been wronged," she said in the statement. "I have been thrown under the bus. I just want a fair chance."
The dispute over her qualifications comes down to the requirement for candidates to have an Administrative Services Credential. Sanchez said she has one, though the second-grade teacher has never served in an administrative position.
Sanchez claimed to have the credential when she first filed to run with the Merced County Registrar of Voters Office, according to Barbara Levey, the registrar. It wasn't until last week, after the office looked further into it, that staffers found she was eligible but had not secured the full credential.
The full credential would come after Sanchez worked in an administrative position, like a principal or superintendent job.
"Per the California Commission on Teaching Credentials, they did tell me that a person who holds a certificate of eligibility cannot perform administrative services," Levey said.
Election code also requires Sanchez to have the credentials on the day she files to run, Levey said. "She cannot legally be a candidate because she does not meet that requirement," she said.
The election will move along without Sanchez on the ballot, Levey confirmed on Monday.
The candidate spent $6,089 on signs and other expenses before she was bounced from the ballot, according to campaign documents. She hadn't raised any money from contributors through March 28, records show.
The registrar's office intends to refund Sanchez the $3,751 she spent on election-related fees, Levey said.
Sanchez disagrees with the county's assessment. "There is no statement that requires me to currently be an administrator, nor does it state that I have to have experience as an administrator," she said on Sunday.
The elementary school teacher in the Delhi Unified School District looked to face off against the current superintendent, Steve Tietjen, and challenger Richard Lopez, the superintendent of Merced River School District.
Lopez was not immediately available for comment.
Tietjen weighed in.
"I’m not a legal expert on elections law but I’ve learned that you must have a valid credential at the time of filing to be a candidate," he said in an email. "It doesn’t surprise me that people asked about her qualifications since she has never served as an administrator."