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Teachers union withdraws endorsements of two candidates

January 31, 2011 |  9:41 am

United Teachers Los Angeles has abandoned its support of two candidates in the March school board election, throwing the union's political strategy into disarray.

Jesus Escandon has withdrawn from the race and John Fernandez has lost the endorsement of UTLA because of "serious concerns about Mr. Fernandez's truthfulness in the interview process and his qualifications and integrity to be a member of the school board," union President A.J. Duffy wrote in a Monday statement that was apparently faxed to union chapter chairs at schools in the L.A. Unified School District.

Escandon had filed to run in District 7, which covers the harbor area and portions of South Los Angeles, against one-term incumbent Richard Vladovic. Fernandez is running for an open seat in District 5, which covers a diverse area including Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Eagle Rock, East Los Angeles and the southeast L.A. County cities of Huntington Park, South Gate and Bell.

The issue with both candidates was lack of disclosure in the union interview process. A source familiar with the internal deliberations said the matter with Escandon related to one or more arrests and that the problems with Fernandez related to an arrest and his personal finances. A union spokesperson declined to confirm the specifics when contacted Monday morning.

Politically, the turn of events is an advantage for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is supporting other candidates -- Vladovic in District 7 and Luis Sanchez in District 5 -- in his effort to maintain an allied board majority.

The union has not ruled out endorsing additional candidates, although it would probably have to call an emergency meeting of its House of Representatives to do so. In District 7, the other remaining candidate is Roye Love, who has frequently run for office in the past. In District 5, the last standing alternative is recently retired teacher Bennett Kayser. Last week, Kayser won the endorsement of the union that represents district administrators. Administrators are endorsing Vladovic in the other contest.

Both Escandon and Fernandez were received with great favor by House delegates late last year when the body made its endorsements. Escandon is a well-liked staffer with the California Teachers Assn. and a district parent. Fernandez is a longtime community activist and was a union chapter chairman at Roosevelt High School prior to his recent retirement.


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