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Early results show tight race for L.A. Unified School Board

May 17, 2011 |  9:41 pm

Bennett Kayser has a slim lead in the race for the Los Angeles Unified School District's open seat, according to early poll results.

Kayser, 64, a retired teacher who was endorsed by both the school teachers and administrators unions, is ahead of Luis Sanchez, who currently serves as chief of staff to the school board president.

Sanchez, 36, is supported by several labor groups, including the Service Employees International Union Local 99, and several elected officials.

Neither candidate gained enough votes in the March primary to avoid a runoff for the 5th District seat, which stretches from Los Feliz to Maywood. About 1,500 more people voted for Sanchez than Kayser during the primary.

The race is the first one this election season where a teachers union candidate has directly faced one supported by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Four of the candidates on the seven-member board generally side with Villaraigosa, who helped raise funds for all of them. A Sanchez victory would give the mayor another ally.

The campaign turned increasingly negative, with both Sanchez and Kayser accusing each other of ethics violations. The city's Ethics Commission did not sanction either one.

Kayser said the early returns were encouraging, while Sanchez said: "We'll make it up in the field."

-- Jason Song