In Partnership with The 74

District 4 dominates while first outside money enters school board race, campaign finance reports show

Sarah Favot | January 13, 2017



Steve Zimmer, Nick Melvoin, Katie Braude, Greg Martayan and Allison Holdorff Polhill at a candidate forum on Monday sponsored by Speak UP.

Steve Zimmer, Nick Melvoin, Katie Braude, Greg Martayan and Allison Holdorff Polhill at a candidate forum on Monday sponsored by Speak UP.

The latest campaign finance reports in the LA Unified school board races are in and the records show that the most money by far has been raised in the District 4 race where board President Steve Zimmer is running for re-election.

A total of $781,646 has been raised by the candidates in the three board races, with nearly two-thirds going to the District 4 race.

In addition, the first outside money has now entered the race. The report shows one payment by an independent expenditure committee, all of it going to support Zimmer.

A group called “Students, Parents, and Educators in Support of Padilla and Zimmer for School Board 2017, sponsored by Teachers Unions, including United Teachers Los Angeles” spent $150,000 to support Zimmer, LA City Ethics Commission records show. The group hasn’t spent any money on Imelda Padilla, who is running for the District 6 seat. Padilla was endorsed by UTLA in October.

There is sure to be more money pouring into the race by independent expenditure committees. In 2015, $1.8 million was spent by outside groups during the primary election. An additional $3.4 million was spent during the general election that year. In 2013, when the same seats that are now up for election were voted on, independent expenditure committees spent $5.3 million in the primary.

The primary election will be March 7. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the votes, the top two vote-getters will compete in the general election on May 16.

Fundraising by the four candidates in District 4 has totaled more than $490,000. District 4 spans from the Westside of Los Angeles through West Hollywood to East Hollywood and portions of the San Fernando Valley, including Tarzana, Topanga, Woodland Hills and Encino.

Nick Melvoin, who announced his candidacy in February and had raised $124,344 as of June 30, continued to lead in fundraising bringing his total contributions to $270,031 as of Dec. 31. Zimmer raised $85,392 as of Dec. 31, a significant increase from the $7,304 he had raised as of June 30. Allison Holdorff Polhill, who was the last to announce her candidacy, raised $72,591 as of Dec. 31. Gregory Martayan raised $62,225.

“Every donor is crucial to the grassroots nature of this campaign and I am grateful for the continued support,” Melvoin said in a news release announcing his fundraising total. “Every day I have the opportunity to connect with families throughout District 4. I hear their concerns and disappointments with the current board and I know that if elected we can work together and bring the focus back to the kids.”

• Read more: LAUSD District 4 school board candidates meet in first forum, discuss charters, finances

Mike Stryer, California senior executive director at Teach Plus, noted the number of individual donations to Melvoin’s campaign outpaced his opponents. Melvoin has received about 895 individual donations; Zimmer has 190; Polhill has 156, and Martayan has 105, records show.

“The breadth of support in a low-turnout election is critical and particularly in an election that promises to be competitive,” Stryer said.

Stryer, who has given $500 to Melvoin’s campaign, said he believes the most money and attention is on District 4 because there is a clear difference between the candidates and because Zimmer is an incumbent and board president.

“Voter turnout for school board elections is always challenging following a presidential election, that being said, I think certainly in District 4, the strength of the candidates and the passion around key issues, I think, will lead to perhaps higher turnout than might be expected,” Stryer said.

• Read more: Zimmer, Melvoin condemn District 4 phone survey that brings up LAUSD child molestations

In District 6, which is an open seat because incumbent board member Mónica Ratliff is running for City Council, Kelly Gonez is leading the fundraising race. She raised $72,182 as of Dec. 31. Araz Parseghian raised $37,110 and Padilla has raised $27,441.

“I am so grateful for the support and excited about the momentum we are building,” Gonez said in a news release announcing her total fundraising. Gonez entered the race in October.

District 6 covers the east San Fernando Valley.

In District 2, incumbent school board member Mónica García has a commanding lead in fundraising. She has raised $148,198 as of Dec. 31. Lisa Alva has raised $3,785 and Carl Petersen has raised $2,050. When Petersen unsuccessfully ran for the District 3 seat two years ago, he raised $2,160.

García also led fundraising as of the June 30 filing deadline. In her 20113 re-election bid, García raised a total of $504,224. She is the longest-serving member of the school board and is seeking her final term.

District 2 includes downtown Los Angeles, Echo Park, East LA and Boyle Heights.

Of Zimmer’s 190 individual contributors, 27 identified themselves as working for LAUSD. Donors to Zimmer’s campaign also included Local 770 United Food and Commercial Workers Union PAC, Service Employees International Union Local 99 Candidate PAC, Teamsters Local Union No. 572, Laborers’ Local 300, and Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union 761 PAC.

Some of the same people, including wealthy supporters of education reform, contributed to both Melvoin’s and Polhill’s campaigns, like Eli and Edythe Broad, of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, Susan and William Bloomfield and Frank Baxter. Former LA Mayor Richard J. Riordan also donated to both campaigns.

Polhill contributed $5,000 to her own campaign. Eighty-five of Polhill’s 156 donors live in Pacific Palisades, where she has served on the school board of Palisades Charter High School.

About one-quarter of Melvoin’s donors live outside California.

Martayan’s donors include jewelers, homemakers, physicians, attorneys and businesses like Mediwaste Disposal LLC, Casa Automotive Group and HDA Trucking LLC. Many of his donors live in the San Fernando Valley communities of Northridge, Encino, Sherman Oaks, Sun Valley and Woodland Hills as well as Glendale.

Padilla’s contributors include LA School Police Management Association, Los Angeles College Guild, Los Angeles School Police Association, San Fernando Valley Young Democrats, and US Journeymen & Apprentices Local #250. Nineteen of her 96 individual contributors work for LA Unified.

More than half of Gonez’s financial backers live outside California. Many of them work for the U.S. Department of Education. (Gonez worked as an education policy advisor in the Obama Administration.) The Broads, Bloomfields and Baxter also contributed to Gonez’s campaign.

García’s financial backers include the Broads, Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings, David Geffen, Frank and Kathrine Baxter and Marcia Aaron, executive director KIPP LA Schools. García has about 280 individual donors.

The next filing deadline for campaign finance reports with the city Ethics Commission is Jan. 26 for activities from Jan. 1 through Jan. 21.

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