Antonio Sanchez, Consensus Candidate?

The fresh-faced Sanchez

It’s still very early goings in the school board race, but Antonio Sanchez is already emerging as the favorite in the East Valley’s District 6 — especially since Ernie Cardenas dropped out earlier this week (see: Cardenas Explains Withdrawal – Sort Of).

The 30-year-old Sanchez aims to bridge the bitter divide between unions and school choice and accountability advocates.

“We have to break that,” Sanchez told LA School Report in a recent telephone interview. “I want to bring positive discourse.”

Bridging differences is easier said than done, however. Board member Steve Zimmer has tried, but has alienated both sides more often than not. Cardenas dropped out of the race citing the deep divisions among Board members as a key reason.

Sanchez studied cultural anthropology at Cal State Northridge before earning a Masters in urban and regional planning from UCLA, and then joined the political class almost immediately after.

He worked as a staffer for State Assemblywoman Cindy Montañez, then later for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in a number of positions. He recently worked for the LA County Federation of Labor in their opposition to Proposition 32.

On the issues, Sanchez is playing it down the middle. For example, on charters:

“I think there are some good charter schools and some bad charter schools. I have seen a couple issues of transparency.”

And on evaluations:

“I do think part of the evaluation should be subjective, like peer-to-peer. I also think we need an objective measure. That doesn’t mean it should be solely based on some test score. But we do have to include student performance.”

Sounds almost like Steve Zimmer circa 2009, right?

“I’m not Steve Zimmer,” said Sanchez. “Steve is a passionate man, but we’re going to have a different approach.”

Sanchez has gotten the endorsement of both the SEIU Local 99 (see: SEIU Endorses Garcia, Zimmer and Sanchez) and the LA County Federation of Labor’s COPE committee. He was also one of four candidates in District 6 to be endorsed by the teachers union (see: District 6: SEIU & UTLA Endorsements*).

Sanchez’s biggest ally may be Mayor Antonio Villairagosa, for whom Sanchez worked for nearly four years. Villaraigosa is expected to play a key role in fundraising for the Coalition For School Reform, giving Sanchez a very real shot at becoming the consensus candidate.

“I have friends on both sides,” said Sanchez.  “Sometimes, I’m gonna make folks on one side happy, other times, I’m gonna make folks on the other side happy.”

Previous posts: Ballot Position for School Board Races AnnouncedTwo District 6 Candidates Drop Out*SEIU Endorses Garcia, Zimmer and Sanchez