In Partnership with The 74

LAUSD’s BD5 race will go to a runoff — Repenning holds 35-vote lead over Ortíz for second place

Taylor Swaak | March 8, 2019



Jackie Goldberg, left, Graciela Ortíz and Heather Repenning.

*Updated March 15

The top three finishers in L.A. Unified’s Board District 5 election retained their positions after Tuesday’s vote count, though the race for second place narrowed to only 35 votes.

A runoff election on May 14 is now certain, as Jackie Goldberg is 596 votes shy of a majority and there are fewer than 90 votes left to count from the March 5 primary. Tuesday’s updated vote tallies show the union-backed Goldberg with 48.2 percent, a slight dip from an earlier vote update on March 8 that gave her 48.45 percent. As a former school board member and vocal charter critic who became a prominent face of the January teacher strike, Goldberg’s name recognition catapulted her past the other nine candidates in this year’s packed special election in the predominantly Latino student board district.

The real race now is for the second runoff slot. Former L.A. City official Heather Repenning has held onto second place ahead of Huntington Park councilwoman Graciela Ortíz since March 8, though her 133-vote lead shrank on Tuesday to a mere 35-vote margin after Ortíz picked up 288 votes in the latest count. Repenning had picked up 190.

On election night, Ortíz had an initial 53-vote lead over Repenning. Both are far behind Goldberg.

Here are the new tallies:

  • Jackie Goldberg: 48.20%, 15,913 votes
  • Heather Repenning: 13.13%, 4,334 votes
  • Graciela Ortíz: 13.02%, 4,299 votes
  • Cynthia González: 9.75%, 3,220 votes
  • Allison Greenwood Bajracharya: 6.01%, 1,984 votes
  • Ana Cubas: 3.46%, 1,143 votes
  • David Valdez: 2.05%, 678 votes
  • Rocío Rivas: 1.64%, 543 votes
  • Salvador Sánchez: 1.58%, 521 votes
  • Nestor Enrique Valencia: 1.16%, 382 votes

With the county counting only a few dozen ballots on Friday — and with Repenning ahead by a 35-vote margin — it wouldn’t be possible for Ortíz to surpass her, Derek Mazzeo, Repenning’s campaign manager, told LA School Report on Friday.

The next county update, if needed, is now slated for March 22 after a scheduled March 19 update was canceled, Mazzeo said. County officials did not immediately confirm. The county will certify the election on March 22.

Mazzeo had told LA School Report earlier this week that though the race is close, “we don’t anticipate any recount.” Repenning’s campaign also said in a statement that “these results show how critical every last vote is.”

As of Friday afternoon, Ortíz’s campaign hadn’t committed to calling a recount if Repenning claims a win. “We have to pay, and it can be expensive,” her campaign manager, Sergio Carrillo, told LA School Report on Friday. “Depending on the results, we may think about that.” If Ortíz were to request a full recount of the more than 33,000 ballots cast, it could cost in the ballpark of $30,000. Ortíz’s campaign has already spent about $43,000 more than it’s taken in, according to city ethics commission data.

Goldberg, who is already prepping for the May runoff, told LA School Report last Thursday that she hadn’t expected the “distance between me and the next highest person.” If Goldberg had pulled off a primary win, she would have assumed office “when the county certifies the election,” board secretariat Jefferson Crain wrote in an email Friday.

The board district, where nearly 90 percent of the more than 81,000 students are Latino, has been without a representative for more than seven months. The seat has been vacant since late July, when former board member Ref Rodríguez resigned after pleading guilty to money laundering charges.

The board member for BD5 represents students enrolled in 177 district schools located in parts of the southeast of Los Angeles, including the cities of Huntington Park, Maywood, South Gate and Bell, and in neighborhoods northeast of downtown, including Highland Park, Echo Park, Silver Lake, Eagle Rock and Los Feliz.


*This article was updated with information about Friday’s scheduled update and recount costs.

Esmeralda Fabián Romero contributed to this report.


• For more on the election:

Meet the 10 candidates running for LAUSD school board in District 5

LAUSD special election guide: Who’s on the ballot, and why Tuesday’s primary matters

How will this LAUSD school board election differ from District 5’s last race? Will January’s teacher strike boost turnout? Experts answer these questions, and more, about Tuesday’s vote

At two forums for LAUSD board candidates, students focus on college preparation, while parents want high-quality teachers and safe schools

More money, more charter school scrutiny: Here’s what Jackie Goldberg wants to bring to LAUSD in her bid to rejoin the school board after nearly 30 years

New survey shows big differences in how English- and Spanish-speakers view their schools in LAUSD’s Board District 5

Latinos are the vast majority in LAUSD’s Board District 5. But they likely won’t be the ones who elect their next school board member. Here’s why.

Read Next