While the election of Barack Obama as president wasn't unexpected, many local election results were quite surprising. In fact, I wish the Hesperia Star had the resources to hold voter focus groups to see what voters were thinking going into last Tuesday's election. Unfortunately, we'll have to leave the in-depth demographic surveys and focus groups to CNN and the likes.


At the top of the surprising results category was the victory of Christopher Bentley for one of two available school board seats. Not only did Bentley - who funded and managed his campaign by himself - win, but he quickly sprinted away from the field and never looked back. After all the results were tallied, Bentley had 24.87 percent of the vote.


As it turned out, the real race was for second place. Chris Lindsay led early in the counting, but Anthony Riley made a late-night surge and narrowly beat Lindsay, 20.82 percent to 20.04 percent.


If this race were held a year ago, it would have been considered a clear victory for the Robert Kirk faction, as Bentley was an ardent defender of Kirk, and Riley has made recent public comments that seem to align him with the Kirk camp. But the picture in 2008 seems very different than in 2007 with Bentley emerging as a maverick who readily spreads around his criticism of the school district.


How did Bentley do it? He had a central theme that he repeated over and over: He is a parent who believes something is wrong with the district and he has ability to change it. While Riley used expensive glossy mailers, Bentley's campaign was almost anti-gloss. He depended on weekly half-page, text-based ads, strategically placed in the Hesperia Star. He believed, and it appears he was completely correct, that voters wanted to read real ideas rather than depend solely on pretty pictures.


Mike Leonard's successful city council re-election campaign, which was managed by Al Vogler, also relied on text-based newspaper ads and mailers. His message, and that of second-place winner Paul Bosacki, also used large billboards on Main Street.


Bentley also regularly cruised Hesperia Star online comments, defending his ideas and positions and attacking those he disagreed with. In the process, Bentley was tagged countless times by those who took exception to his views.


Some people figured the local California School Employees Association chapter candidates Eric Swanson and Frank Rich would win seats. Bentley attacked Swanson, as did a Hesperia Teachers Association-funded mailer, for his involvement with the now defunct California Charter Academy. Swanson has adamantly maintained he never did anything inappropriate. Perhaps if the CCA matter were completely resolved - CCA principals Steven Cox and Tad Honeycutt are still expecting to go to court regarding the issue - Swanson could have had a clearer shot at a school board seat. Was Rich too unknown to the general public? Perhaps.


Getting the least amount of votes was Bruce Henson, who seemed to have some of the best ideas and pertinent experience for the school board job. Hopefully, he'll consider another run.


For the past two years, the school board has been where the action is, in terms of interesting - and sometimes controversial - local news. It looks like that won't change, at least for another two years.