Candidate Forums: Bias or Balance?

Bias may have been a factor in Dr. Chen's exclusion from the candidate forum

Conejo Council PTA

(Thousand Oaks, Ca) Election season brings voters to the polls to decide on their candidates for elected positions. Candidate forums provide an opportunity for voters to hear directly from the people vying for the open seats. But are the scales balanced?

The Conejo Council PTA offered a candidate’s forum for the Conejo Valley Unified School District board trustee candidates on Saturday, September 15. The event was moderated by Justine Fischer, former California PTA President.

Missing from the stage was Dr. Amy Chen, a candidate that expressed interest in attending but who did not respond by the September 1 deadline. When asked why she did not respond, Dr. Chen stated, “I didn’t know they sent me an invitation via certified mail. I received a sticky note saying I had a certified letter, but it did not say it was from the Conejo Council PTA.”

The invitation from Conejo Council PTA for the candidate forum was sent via certified mail and stated responses were due by September 1. Without the letter, Dr. Chen stated she was not aware of that deadline.

Dr. Chen learned about the deadline at a Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) board meeting when Rocky Capobianco, Conejo Council PTA President, announced that Chen would not be participating. When it came time for public comments, Dr. Chen expressed her interest in attending and Capobianco stated he would follow up with the post office. Ultimately, Dr. Chen was not allowed to participate. Dr. Chen is a known conservative and registered Republican.

Four years ago, in 2014, David Fox, another candidate for CVUSD board trustee, also did not receive his letter. Fox stated, “It was 4 years ago. So I don’t remember if it was that I got a sticky note and didn’t pick it up or if it just never came. But as soon as I found out I called and I was allowed to attend.” Fox was a registered Democrat.

The PTA states it is a non-partisan organization that only offers positions on policy and not candidates. However, it’s elected members do have party affiliation. Conejo Council PTA lists the following people as its leadership on its website. According to the Ventura County Recorder’s office, this is their party affiliation:

  • ​President – Rocky Capobianco (Non-Party Preference)
  • Executive VP – Carol Mayeda (Democrat)
  • 1st VP Leadership – Paula Nathan (Democrat)
  • 2nd VP Membership – Maria Steck (Democrat)
  • 3rd VP Programs – Lisa Capobianco (Non-Party Preference)
  • Recording Secretary – Peggy Buckles (Democrat)
  • Treasurer – Koren Wood (Non-Party Preference)
  • Auditor – Cindy Bersley (Democrat)
  • Historian – Susan Medhurst (Not Found / Not Registered)
  • Parliamentarian – Annette Snow (Not Found / Not Registered)

According to data provided by the Ventura County elections division, The City of Thousand Oaks has 75,891 registered voters of which there are

  • Republicans: 27,844 (36.7%)
  • Democrats: 25,365 (33.4%)
  • Non-Party Preference: 18,678 (24.6%)
  • American Independent Party: 1,833 (2.4%)
  • Miscellaneous: 1,345 (1.8%)
  • Libertarian: 652(0.85%)
  • Green Party: 260 (0.34%)
  • Peace & Freedom Party: 114 (0.0013%)


The Conejo Council PTA leadership reflects the following party affiliation

  • Republicans: 0%
  • Democrats: 50%
  • Non Party Preference: 30%
  • American Independent Party: 0%
  • Miscellaneous: 0%
  • Libertarian: 0%
  • Green Party: 0%
  • Peace & Freedom Party: 0%
  • Not Registered / Not Found: 20%


The Conejo Council PTA operates using Robert’s Rules, a guideline for parliamentary procedure. Capobianco is a parliamentarian, or a person versed or trained in Parliamentary Procedure. According to, “When an assembly wishes to do something it cannot do without violating its regular rules, it can adopt to ‘Suspend the Rules‘ that interfere with the proposed action.”

Rocky Capobianco was contacted for this story but did not respond.

Based on research of available records, the Conejo Council PTA has never excluded a candidate for any reason from its forum.

“Amy Chen should have been able to participate in the PTA forum,” stated Angie Simpson, CVUSD board candidate. “It would have been simple to include her and given the confusion that occurred, allowing Dr. Chen to participate would have demonstrated a spirit of inclusion by the forum organizers. It’s a shame they weren’t more flexible but I understand it was their forum so their rules.”

“The lack of ideological diversity and representation in PTA leadership is exemplified in the unwillingness to accommodate for Dr. Amy Chen in the recent debate,” explained John Anderson, CVUSD Board Trustee. “PTA leadership has been a frequent critic of conservative members of the board and the book policy and again this is a manifestation of the lack of ideological diversity in PTA leadership.”

Patrissha Booker, CVUSD School Board candidate, shared, “As far as it concerns leadership and the political breakdown of the PTA, there is no way of knowing to what degree those who are non-party and those who are not registered, might be situated on the political scale (left, right, or somewhere in-between). As far as it concerns Dr. Chen and not being able to participate in the PTA forum, I choose to stay away from drama, rise up above it, and focus on my campaign.”


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