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A March runoff will decide who leads the L.A. teachers union

February 17, 2011 | 10:27 pm

Veteran union leader Julie Washington finished first in the race for president of United Teachers Los Angeles, but fell short of avoiding a runoff in balloting to head the union, officials announced Thursday night.

Washington, a union vice president, claimed 44.8% of the vote. In second place and securing a spot in the runoff was Warren Fletcher, a teacher at the City of Angels alternative school, with 37.3% of the vote.

Six other candidates vied for the top office. The only other aspirant with more than 4% of the vote was Mat Taylor, the lead union representative for much of South Los Angeles, with 8.7% of the vote.

Ballots for the next and final round of voting will be mailed on March 7 to UTLA members and must be returned on or before March 29. UTLA represents teachers at schools operated by the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second-largest school system.

Washington was the heavy favorite, largely because of her long record of union leadership, including service as a key member of the contract negotiating team. She also enjoyed the implicit support of some current union leaders, who allowed her to preside at recent public events, raising her profile inside and outside the union.

Fletcher’s strong second-place finish was something of a surprise. Like Washington, he’s well liked within the union, but has been widely viewed for years as an outsider critical of union leadership, with little or no constituency behind him. That wasn’t the case in this election, with many critics of the UTLA leadership coalescing around Fletcher rather than splitting their vote more evenly among various candidates.

The union sent out 36,857 ballots and 6,278 were returned, a turnout rate of 17%. The overwhelming majority of UTLA members are teachers, but the union also represents nurses, librarians, counselors and psychologists.

The only outright winner was Gregg Solkovits, who claimed the spot of vice president representing secondary schools with 54.7% of the vote.

Current union President A.J. Duffy was barred by term limits from seeking a third three-year term.

RELATED:

Eight seek presidency of United Teachers Los Angeles

-- Howard Blume

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