After months of campaigning, thousands of trees chopped down and turned into glossy direct mail, and nearly $6 million spent, last night’s LAUSD Board election left the ideological makeup of the School Board essentially untouched.
Incumbent Monica Garcia won her re-election outright, garnering a very healthy 56% of the vote. In District 6, Antonio Sanchez is heading toward a runoff with the second-place finisher, Monica Ratliff. Incumbent Steve Zimmer appears to have been reelected as well, although there are still a number of provisional and late absentee ballots yet to be counted.
As of noon, a Coalition for School Reform consultant held out hope that there could be as many as 20,000 votes still to be counted in the Westside’s District 4, and said there was an outside chance the outcome could still change.
Challenger Kate Anderson, meanwhile, sounded as if she had conceded the race. “I’m disappointed,” she told LA School Report. “We expected it to be close. We felt such energy and momentum in the field. And if you look at the results, we lost on absentee ballots. Our feeling in the field wasn’t wrong, it just wasn’t enough.
Indeed, Zimmer’s own campaign consultant, Mike Shimpock, was surprised at just how big his candidate’s margin of victory among early absentee ballots was – 16 percentage points.
He credited Zimmer’s own work going door-to-door in the district.
“Steve is out in the field a lot,” said Shimpock. “And he is well-known in that district. I think that paid off for him in the early vote… In these lower turnout elections, it’s always a mistake to underestimate candidates who come out of the grassroots.”
Both Shimpock and UTLA Vice President Gregg Solkovits also credited Zimmer’s victory to a backlash against the Coalition for School Reform’s big money campaign.
“People don’t like it when out-of-state billionaires decide they can interfere with races when it’s a local issue,” said Solkovits, who pointed out that a relatively large donation by Michelle Rhee’s organization Students First may have had a similar effect last night in Sacramento.
While the attack against big checks from far-off candidates may have stuck, the reality is that UTLA and SEIU spent nearly as much as the Coalition in the District 4 campaign. The Coalition spent $1.4 million, while UTLA and SEIU spent $1.1 million.
As for UTLA, last night’s results were something of a mixed bag. The candidate they really wanted out — Monica Garcia — won handily in a low-turnout contest.
“We knew District 2 was going to be an uphill battle,” said UTLA’s Solkovits. “We were out-resourced. She was an incumbent with some degree of popularity. We did our best. You don’t win everything.”
Indeed, it’s worth pointing out that UTLA’s two claims at victory, Zimmer in District 4 and Sanchez in the District 6 runoff, were for middle-of-the-road candidates who generally support Superintendent John Deasy and many of the policies that UTLA was attacking Garcia for supporting.
In an interview with KPCC this morning, UTLA President Warren Fletcher sounded conciliatory on the topic of Garcia “We’ve had definite differences with Monica Garcia’s vision for LAUSD. But… we have, despite not seeing eye to eye, worked with her on several issues. We’re ready to work with her for the next four years.”
Superintendent John Deasy seemed unperturbed by the events last night.
“I’m looking forward to meeting with the new Board when it’s finally decided,” he said. “The district and the Board led the agenda before the race. It will continue to lead the agenda after the race.”