Ratliff: “The Most Powerful Woman in LA”?*

ratliff deasy LA Weekly 060613A new feature in the LA Weekly claims Board member-elect Monica Ratliff “may be the most powerful woman in Los Angeles” (given the dearth of elected officials on the City Council) and compares LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy to former police chief William Bratton.

Written by LA School Report contributor HIllel Aron, The Woman Who May Change L.A. notes that Coalition for School Reform campaign veterans charged with defeating Ratliff in last month’s runoff may have been limited by “wildly naive” Coalition donors who didn’t want to attack Ratliff. They also believed erroneous poll projections putting Sanchez safely in the lead and ignored Ratliff’s controversial positions on teacher dismissal.

Of particular note are some juicy quotes from former Mayor Richard Riordan, who’s quoted saying the Coalition picked a political hack as its candidate (in large part because of SEIU opposition to another candidate, Iris Zuniga), “had the wrong people running our campaign” (a reference to losing campaign consultants SCN’s Ace Smith and Sean Clegg), and failed to focus on making losing candidate Antonio Sanchez more likable.

*Correction:  The original version of this post mis-identified the District 6 candidate who was opposed by SEIU as Nury Martinez.  See the corrected sentence above.

Previous posts: Board Member-Elect Highlights Vocational TrainingCampaign 2013: What Next for the Coalition for School Reform?Endorsements, Garcetti — and Race

Campaign 2013: Turnout Tells a Tale in District 6

ShorterD6MapThere’s a great interactive map on KPCC’s website showing citywide voter turnout for every single precinct.

Meant to shine a light on the Mayor’s race, the map is also pretty useful in trying to figure out what happened in the District 6 School Board race.

In essence, the map seems to indicate that precinct-level turnout may have played a larger role than previously understood.

We walked precincts with Antonio Sanchez on the Saturday before the election, starting in the City of San Fernando (where there was no Mayor’s race, and therefore had roughly 4 percent turnout), but later crossed over to the City of Los Angeles. About 15 percent of voters in that precinct cast ballots (not including outstanding ballots yet to be counted).

Monica Ratliff went walking in the Sunland-Tujunga area, close to where she lives. Voter turnout in that precinct was 28 percent. Voters in the area have a long history of being politically engaged — at least compared to the rest of the city.

“We’re very politically active,” said Mark Seigel, President of the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council. “We have many people that come out for issues for our community.”

The discrepancy in voter turnout was born out of a confluence of events including a Mayor’s race that did not include a candidate that excited the Latino base like outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, as well as overall low turnout rates that seemed to have affected Latino voters more than it effected white voters.

Although the majority of District 6 voters are Latino, they generally vote in smaller numbers than white voters. In 2009, Nury Martinez defeated her opponent, Louis Pugliese by just 500 or so votes.

Previous posts: Cheers — and ConfusionHow Ratliff Won (& Reformers Lost)Ratliff Scores School Board Upset

Campaign 2013: How Ratliff Won (& Reformers Lost)*

The results are (mostly) in, and the LAUSD School Board District 6 election looks like the shock result of the evening, with Monica Ratliff having apparently defeated Antonio Sanchez, 52 percent to 48 percent — a complete reversal from the primary results in which Sanchez bested Ratliff by 10 points.

Sanchez has now conceded the race.* Ratliff couldn’t be reached for comment. The Daily News’ Barbara Jones reported earlier this morning that Ratliff was at San Pedro Elementary teaching, as she has been throughout the campaign.

Turnout in the race was roughly 16 percent, although according to the City Clerk, there are still more than 82,000 votes left to be counted citywide. It is unknown how many of those uncounted ballots are from District 6.

Observers, to say the least, are shocked. Recriminations within the so-called “school reform” community have already begun, with one pro-reform insider calling the result “an utter disaster.”

The small clique of UTLA activists that helped Ratliff win, on the other hand, are ecstatic.

“Am I surprised? Yes,” said Brent Smiley, vice chair for UTLA’s political action committee. “I’m truly floored. I think, ultimately, [voters] saw [Sanchez] as a politician. And they viewed [Ratliff] as what she was – a classroom teacher.”

Those involved in the race are crediting Ratliff’s poise as a candidate, her ballot designation as a classroom teacher, and a small but devoted group of volunteers; they blame Sanchez’s loss on his lack of familiarity with education issues, the ineffectiveness of the campaigns on his behalf, and low voter turnout.

At least one observer credited UTLA’s endorsement of both Ratliff and Sanchez, which conventional wisdom credited as a major advantage for Sanchez, as having had the completely unintended effect of protecting Ratliff.

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Before They Were School Board Candidates

School Board candidates Antonio Sanchez (left) and Monica Ratliff (right)

If you haven’t already read Hillel Aron’s profiles of the District 6 candidates Monica Ratliff and Antonio Sanchez on the campaign trail this past weekend, be sure and do so here and here.

Did you know, however, that one of the two candidates was in a 2012 Nazi revenge film (straight to DVD) and the other was an antiwar protester whose image was featured by the LA Times?

Click below for the images and some of the details.

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Election Day: Voter Turnout Will Determine Outcome

In today’s School Board District 6 election, Antonio Sanchez remains the strong favorite over his opponent, Monica Ratliff, thanks in part to the overwhelming advantage in campaign contributions to both Sanchez’s campaign and two independent campaigns on his behalf.

Sanchez’s Latino surname and fluency in Spanish is also a built-in advantage (though Ratliff’s mother is from Mexico).

“You’re looking at a very Latino district,” said Mike Shimpock, Sanchez’s campaign consultant. “And this is a district where ethnic identity voting still makes a difference on election day.”

Internal polls are said to show a decisive advantage for Sanchez, but voter turnout could play a huge role.

“If the turnout is above 15 percent, Sanchez wins running away,” said Brent Smiley, a teacher and vice chair of UTLA’s political action committee. “If it’s below 15 percent, then things get interesting.”

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Campaign: Walking San Fernando with Antonio Sanchez

District 6 candidate Antonion Sanchez walking on Saturday.

Antonio Sanchez always introduces himself to voters the same way, telling them within ten seconds that he grew up in Pacoima, went to San Fernando High School, and graduated form Cal State Northridge before going on to UCLA.

And so when he canvases precincts in San Fernando on Saturday, he knows most of the streets. He even knows some of the voters — both from growing up in the area and from working on a number of political campaigns, from as far back as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s election in 2005 and Cindy Montanez’s failed State Senate run in 2006.

Although he’s a first-time candidate, the 31-year-old Sanchez also enjoys a panoply of political connections to labor groups, State legislators and East Valley community groups. As a result, nearly $2 million has been spent on Sanchez’s behalf by outside groups, making him the clear favorite in the race.

Spending a couple of hours this past Saturday walking a precinct with Sanchez and his friend, Pete Brown, it’s clear that the connections are an advantage about which Sanchez is unapologetic — but also something he has to answer for.

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Campaign: Door-to-Door in Sunland with Monica Ratliff

Candidate Ratliff walking in Sunland on Saturday.

Going door-to-door in the Sunland section of the East Valley one evening this past weekend, District 6 School Board candidate Monica Ratliff‘s pitch to voters goes something like this:

“Hi, my name is Monica Ratliff. I’m a teacher, and I’m running for the Board of Education. Do you have any questions or concerns about the school district?”

Most voters are startled by this; it’s unusual for a politician to ask voters for advice three days before the May 21 election.

But then, Ratliff is no politician.

That’s been both a strength and a weakness in the campaign. When speaking, Ratliff comes off as an authentic person with real opinions often based on 12 years of teaching in a classroom.

But her lack of political savvy has also caused her some grief — most notably in her shifting positions on the leadership of LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy.

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East Valley Power Politics Shaped District 6 Runoff

A diagram of the East Valley clan relationships that shape City Council and LAUSD politics

As you may have read in last week’s LA Weekly about School Board member Nury Martinez’s bid for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council, there are surprisingly few women left on the Council thanks in large part to a rivalry between two male-dominated East San Fernando Valley political clans.

The rivalry between these two Latino clans doesn’t just affect the City Council, however.  It also greatly influenced Tuesday’s District 6 runoff between Antonio Sanchez and Monica Ratliff.

A look at the East Valley political factions may provide some insight about how we ended up with the Sanchez-Ratliff runoff rather than any of the other configurations that initially appeared likely — and why teachers union UTLA refrained from picking a single candidate to support in the District 6 race.  They simply didn’t want to get involved in a turf war between the Padillas and the Alarcons.

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Reform Coalition Focuses Massive War Chest on Mailers

Close-up of Coalition mailer for District 6 candidate Antonio Sanchez

As of May 4, the independent expenditure (IE) committee known as the Coalition for School Reform had a staggering $850,000 left in the bank, according to papers filed with the City Ethics Commission.

That dwarfs the $55,000 left in the coffers of the Antonio Sanchez campaign, whom the Coalition is supporting, as well as the $21,000 held by the Monica Ratliff campaign.

Both are seeking to win the District 6 (East Valley) School Board runoff election that’s being held May 21.

Rather than airing new ads on television or radio, or going for broke with a door-to-door field operation, Coalition spokesman Addisu Demissie said the group would spend heavily on direct mail.

“The good thing about mail is, we can talk to different people in specific ways,” Demissie told LA School Report.  “It’s more efficient that way. You know how expensive TV can be in Los Angeles.”

The Coalition’s recent mailers have all been positive – in contrast to some of the pieces sent out in the primary, some of which were negative.

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Charts: School Board Voting Could Decline

There a few really great charts in today’s LA Times article about our ever-sinking voter turnout, including the one above. The Times shows that voter turnout in Mayoral runoffs increases an average of 18 percent from the primary.

But according to sources we’ve spoken with, voter turnout in School Board District 6 next week could actually be lower than it was during the March primary, when less than 18 percent of registered voters cast ballots.

Previous posts: Final: Mayoral Candidates Lack Commitment Reformers & Teachers Want;  Mayoral Candidates Divided by High SchoolGarcetti & Gruel Debate EducationGreuel Endorses Sanchez, Garcetti Undecided

Polling: Voters Dislike LAUSD, Like Local Schools

There isn’t any public polling about next week’s District 6 School Board race but there are some interesting citywide poll results that tell us a little bit about how differently LA voters see LAUSD in general and their own schools in particular.

According to Raphael Sonenshein in the Jewish Journal, voters generally hold LAUSD in low esteem, compared to local schools and those in their neighborhoods.  Latino voters are generally much enthusiastic about LAUSD than whites or African-Americans.

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Board Candidate Ratliff Attends UTLA Rally*

Board candidate Monica Ratliff talks with a UTLA protester (via KPCC)

District 6 (East Valley) candidate Monica Ratliff was spotted outside at the UTLA rally to hire more teachers/reduce class size. Via KPCC. [*Contrary to the original version of this post, the rally took place after school and so Ratliff didn't have to take any time off.]

Previous posts: Board Candidates Differ on Teacher Retention, School Turnaround; Sanchez Supports Classroom Breakfast & Teacher Dismissal Initiatives

Sanchez Supports Classroom Breakfast & Teacher Dismissal Initiatives

With less than two weeks to go until election day, the District 6 School Board runoff is remarkably sedate. Very little mail has been sent out for either campaigns, and Independent Expenditure (or IE) committee spending is down compared to the primary.

Monica Ratliff still teaches every day at San Pedro Elementary, so her public exposure is limited to weekends and evening events. Antonio Sanchez, meanwhile, is concentrating on talking to voters and fundraising.

“Sometimes when you get to the runoff it’s very workmanlike,” said Sanchez’s political consultant, Mike Shimpock. “This one is very much about voter consolidation. The IE [committee] is going to be doing a lot of mail.”

Sanchez has, meanwhile, indicated his position on two contentious issues — and either he or Ratliff will likely be announced as Mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti’s pick later this week.

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Commentary: Clear Choice for School Board Race

This is a guest commentary from LAUSD District 6 teachers Pearl Arredondo and Hector (@educatorla) Perez-Roman, following up on a recent TeachPlus meeting with candidate Monica Ratliff:

With so much at stake for the LAUSD Board District 6 runoff election, it was surprising that only one candidate, Monica Ratliff, attended the only scheduled public candidates’ forum sponsored by Teach Plus Los Angeles.

Where was Antonio Sanchez? In the midst of heavy school reform and transformation across our district, state, and the nation, this forum had the potential to provide those in attendance a clear picture on the candidates’ positions on issues that will ultimately have profound changes on our students, teachers, and the community of the northeast San Fernando Valley.

Instead, those in attendance had an opportunity to have a genuine discussion with Monica Ratliff, a current LAUSD elementary teacher, as she fielded questions from teachers, community members, parents, and LAUSD’s “Beaudry” officials.

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Update: Sanchez Unavailable for Candidate Forum

Image via TeachPlus

This afternoon’s Teach Plus candidates’ event may turn out to be the only live forum for District 6 contenders Monica Ratliff and Antonio Sanchez between now and the May 21 election day.

However, we’re told that Sanchez can’t make it, despite efforts to contact him and to reschedule the event to suit his schedule.

The event is being held at Sol Del Valle Community Center at Bethel Reformed Christian Church, and begins at 4:30.  Registration is required, but according to its website “The Teach Plus Network is open to all current district and charter school classroom teachers.”  LA School Report will be there.

Previous posts:  Forum Scheduled for District 6 CandidatesLittle-Known Candidates Debut at District 6 ForumDistrict 6 Candidates Struggle to Differentiate ThemselvesLittle-Known Candidates Debut at District 6 Forum

Rumors Swirl Around Sanchez Staff Possibilities

The teachers union is none too pleased about a recent LA Times story by Howard Blume about rumors that District 6 School Board candidate Antonio Sanchez had worked out a secret deal with UTLA Vice President Gregg Solkovits.

“It is sad that the Times has chosen to print rumors and innuendo, instead of doing the necessary research to either substantiate or disprove those rumors,” wrote UTLA President Warren Fletcher on the union’s website. “At no time has UTLA entered into any secret agreement with any candidate running for the L.A. School Board regarding staffing or any other subject.”

The three names dropped in the Times story  – all with strong ties to UTLA  – all denied making any deal, as did Sanchez, according to the Times.

But there’s another Sanchez chief of staff possibility that’s been floating around who has strong ties to the Mayor, LAUSD, and other school reform advocates.

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Analysis: Board Candidate Changes Position on Deasy (Again)

The LA Timesmost recent education story tells you several things you already know about the District 6 (East Valley) School Board runoff, including recent contributions to the Coalition for School Reform account and the stalemate over the dual UTLA endorsements of Monica Ratliff (pictured) and Antonio Sanchez that “helps Sanchez by keeping UTLA on the sidelines.” (LA School Report noted all of these things last week.)

But there are also a handful of new tidbits, such as the news that Ratliff held a fundraiser last week (attended by Board members Marguerite LaMotte and Bennett Kayser), mentions by name of a few more of the wealthy contributors who have given to the Coalition in support of Sanchez, use of the word  “referendum” to describe last week’s poll/survey of UTLA teachers about Superintendent John Deasy — and the claim that it’s not clear how much the race matters to Deasy’s longevity or effectiveness.  (Obviously, the Coalition doesn’t think so.)

Perhaps most interesting of all, the LAT story describes Ratliff’s latest articulation of her views on Superintendent Deasy.  She tells the Times she doesn’t want to fire him or re-open the search process but rather she wants to “evaluate Deasy with an open mind based on his record, his working relationship with the board and other relevant factors.”

If accurate, this represents a dramatic softening of Ratliff’s official position on Deasy.

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Union Funding One of Two Endorsed Candidates

UTLA’s political action committee, or PACE, has given $1,000 to the Monica Ratliff campaign, according to paperwork filed with the City Ethics Commission — but hasn’t funded her opponent, Antonio Sanchez.

Both candidates have been endorsed by the teachers union.

The move is all the more notable because on Wednesday, UTLA’s House of Representatives again had the opportunity to change its District 6 endorsements, which had been proposed in a special session held in March.

Both candidates were present at the Wednesday evening meeting of the union governing body, but the item wasn’t on the agenda and wasn’t put to a vote.

Asked why Sanchez critics hadn’t called for a vote on the endorsements, PACE Vice Chair Brent Smiley speculated that disorganization may have played a part.  “Sometimes keeping focus isn’t always the strength of certain people.”

When asked why UTLA hadn’t given equal funding to Sanchez, Smiley responded that the political action committee would consider doing so if Sanchez only asked.

“He hasn’t asked,” said Smiley.  “We’re not in the habit of handing out money to people who don’t ask.”

Runoff 2013: Slow Fundraising Start for District 6

Voters head to the polls in less than six weeks to decide the East San Fernando Valley District 6 School Board runoff between Antonio Sanchez and Monica Ratliff, but things are off to a pretty slow start when it comes to fundraising and spending.

In terms of direct campaign fundraising, Ratliff hasn’t raised any money at all since the primary election, and Sanchez has raised just $15,000 since early March.

As for the IE committees, the latest financial reports from the LA City Ethics Commission cover a time period between mid-February and April 6:

*UTLA-PACE, the teachers union’s political arm, received $237,000 in contributions, as well as $628,000 in “miscellaneous cash increases” but only has $73,000 left for the runoff because the union spent heavily in the weeks leading up to the primary. (See report here.)

*The Coalition for School Reform received $712,000 in contributions during the same time period. But it also spent heavily on the primary, so the Coalition has $230,000 in its account to spend on the District 6 election. (See report here.)

*And the Local 99 branch of the Service Employees International Union collected $398,000 between February and April. It has $261,000 to spend on the runoff. (See report here.)

In terms of spending, outside groups including the Coalition for School Reform and the LA County Federation of Labor spent almost $1.3 million to support Sanchez in the primary, but they have spent only $66,000 on him since then.

LA School Report will keep track of campaign spending and will update you with more up-to-date numbers as we get them.

Runoff: Union & LA Times Might Shift Endorsements

District 6 School Board candidate Antonio Sanchez got nearly 44% of the vote in the March Primary — just 6 points shy of the 50 percent that would have given him an outright victory.

So don’t expect any big changes in his May 21 runoff election with teacher Monica Ratliff.

“We only need to capture less than 10 percent of the outstanding vote,” Sanchez political consultant Mike Shimpock told LA School Report. “It’s not like our model is gonna change considerably.”

But possible changes in endorsements from the UTLA’s House of Representatives and the LA Times editorial page next week could shake things up.

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