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Recluse voted to school board
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — Steve Rocco didn't file a candidate statement or mount a campaign for the school board. He's unknown to teachers and the district and only barely known to his neighbors.

Nonetheless, the mystery candidate easily beat an opponent who is active and relatively well known in the Orange Unified School District.

"Absolutely nobody, but nobody has seen this guy," said Paul Pruss, a middle school teacher who is president of the union. "The whole thing is just bizarre."

Rocco ignored mail from district officials and the teachers union. When the PTA sent him an invitation to a candidate forum, the letter came back unopened.

He ran for mayor of Santa Ana in 2000 and, as he did this year, declined to provide personal information or discuss the campaign. He showed up at a candidate forum in camouflage and sunglasses. He finished last with 12% of the vote.

This time around, he identified himself on the ballot as a writer and educator, although he offered no proof of those occupations.

"Not knowing anything more, most people voted for the educator-writer over the park ranger," said John Hanna, a lawyer who ran successfully against an equally elusive Rocco two years ago for a seat on a community college district.

No one came to the door Friday at Rocco's home southeast of Los Angeles, where he lives with his bedridden parents. The front gate is adorned with a fading Johnny Cash record album cover, and 10 small American flags are in the yard. Neighbors said they see him occasionally, usually on a bicycle.

He is 53 and was born in Italy, according to his voter registration, on which he declined to state his party affiliation. He did not respond to requests for interviews.

If he shows up for monthly school board meetings, he will receive $750 a month. He will be one of seven members setting policy for a district that has a budget of $230 million and serves nearly 32,000 students at 42 schools in Orange and surrounding cities.

The union endorsed Rocco's opponent, Phil Martinez, a park ranger who has three children in the district, is a PTA president and is active with the Boy Scouts.

Rocco, who has no children, won with nearly 54%.

Hanna dismissed one scenario that has been suggested: that voters chose the non-Hispanic name over Martinez.

"This is just one of the rough edges in our electoral system, where the voters can elect someone they know nothing about," he said.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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