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L.A. school board race donations: a calm before expected storm

January 16, 2011 |  1:53 pm

The race for campaign money among candidates for the Los Angeles Board of Education would suggest a sleepy, low-stakes election, but appearances are deceiving: An electoral shootout is still expected between the city’s teachers union and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in the March 8 election.

The latest filings, which were due last week, cover the last quarter of 2010. Four of seven school-board seats are up for grabs in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

As of year-end, the most money has accumulated in District 5, where one-term incumbent Yolie Flores is not running for reelection. Luis Sanchez raised about $80,000 trying to establish himself as the frontrunner. Most observers expect he’ll claim the endorsement of Villaraigosa and the campaign funds that come with that. The mayor is vying to maintain a friendly majority on the seven-member school board. Sanchez is currently chief of staff to school board President Monica Garcia, the mayor’s closest ally on the board.

Bennett Kayser, a teacher, raised $1,900, more than half that amount a loan from himself. John Fernandez, a retired teacher, recorded no fundraising — not one dollar. But that picture will alter because he’s the endorsed candidate of United Teachers Los Angeles, the teachers union.

District 5 spans Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Eagle Rock and the southeastern portions of the L.A. Unified School District, including the cities of Huntington Park, Bell and South Gate.

A rules change in this election cycle will affect how money is donated and controlled. For the first time, donors to candidates will be limited to $1,000 contributions, said David Tristan, deputy director of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.

The big money in this race is likely to come from independent expenditures — again with the teachers union and its allies pitted against the mayor and his allies. Before it's over, hotly contested campaigns could easily exceed a million dollars in spending.

To wit, in District 7, candidate Jesus Escandon reported raising $59 in the last quarter, but the union has endorsed Escandon and is expected to make a run at unseating one-term incumbent Richard Vladovic, a mayoral ally. Vladovic raised $50,676 in the last quarter of 2010.

A third candidate, Roye Love, has loaned himself $1,000 toward his campaign.

The union also is backing District 1 two-term incumbent Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, who raised $3,200 in the last quarter and reported having just $170 cash on hand. Challenger Eric Lee raised $7,943.

District 1 covers substantial portions of south and southwest Los Angeles.

District 3 stretches roughly across the western half of the San Fernando Valley. There, one-term incumbent Tamar Galatzan reported raising $25,246. Challenger Louis Pugliese had no fundraising to report.

ALSO:

Decoding the March 8 L.A. city ballot

L.A. City Council candidates discuss unfair campaign accusations

Parks reelection challenger boasts of endorsements from two key L.A. unions

-- Howard Blume

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