JUST IN: Steve Zimmer concedes in LAUSD board race, Kelly Gonez leading in District 6
Mike Szymanski | May 16, 2017
LA Unified school board President Steve Zimmer conceded Tuesday night in a speech before supporters in Mar Vista.
“There’s no sugar-coating this,” he said.
In an interview outside his campaign party right before the speech, Zimmer told LA School Report that he knew he had lost the election but will not be calling Nick Melvoin to concede.
“With the way this campaign was waged, would you call him?” Zimmer asked.
But Melvoin told his supporters, “Votes determine elections, not concession speeches,” he said, as Zimmer’s speech came before any actual polling results were in, but after mail-in results showed Melvoin leading Zimmer 60 percent to 40 percent.
In mail-in voting, reformer Kelly Gonez led Imelda Padilla, 52 percent to 48 percent.
At 10:40 p.m., with 13 percent of precincts reporting, those percentages mostly held. Melvoin had dropped one percentage point to 59 percent.
When Zimmer arrived at his campaign’s party in Mar Vista, a somber crowd met him. UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl had been at Imelda Padilla’s party in Mission Hills but arrived at Zimmer’s party in time for his speech. Also at the party were school board member George McKenna, board secretariat Jefferson Crain, District 2 candidate Carl Petersen, and former school board members David Tokofsky and Bennett Kayser. Also attending were some LA School Police officers, not in uniform, and many members of UTLA, the teachers union.
“We could only go through this with you,” Zimmer told supporters at his party. “In every precinct we walked, we felt embraced by family.”
At his side was Annika Fernandez, Zimmer’s girlfriend.
He said he suffered the most negative campaign in school board history.
“This is a devastating loss for education and the nation,” Zimmer said. “I’d rather lose an election and have my soul intact. Don’t believe what they say. Teachers are not failing. Students are not failing. Schools are not failing.”
Melvoin, speaking from his election night party in Venice, said he was surprised by his early lead. “I’m cautiously optimistic.”
Melvoin added that if he’s elected, he hopes to move past the charter vs. union divide and build bridges around issues such as pension reform and a parcel tax.
At Melvoin’s party, former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is running for governor, said, “The fight to improve our schools and the fight for education equity is the civil rights issue of our time and LA has been the epicenter of that fight.”
He said he believes Melvoin will help the district move at an accelerated pace to 100 percent graduation.
Going into Tuesday, 116,817 of the 866,567 ballots issued had been mailed in and processed, or 13.5 percent. That could possibly constitute more than half of the turnout, using the March primary as a comparison. About 21 percent of the city’s eligible voters cast ballots in the primary.
In District 4, there are 451,676 registered voters, the most of the seven school board districts, according to the LA city clerk. In District 6, there are 297,424 registered voters.
Stay tuned to LA School Report for updates and you can follow election results here.
*This story has been updated throughout.
Sarah Favot and Esmeralda Fabian contributed.