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Luis Sanchez increases lead in contest for L.A. school board seat

March 10, 2011 |  8:38 am

A Los Angeles Board of Education candidate has come tantalizingly close to avoiding a runoff in updated election results.

Luis Sanchez increased his lead for District 5 and as of Wednesday night had 49.1% of the votes from Tuesday’s election. He needs a majority to win outright and avoid a second round of balloting. Some ballots have yet to be counted.

A runoff would include second-place finisher Bennett Kayser, who has 34.1% of the vote. 

Sanchez’s lead increased with the addition of votes from outside L.A. The Los Angeles Unified School District also serves incorporated cities, including Huntington Park, South Gate and Bell, that are part of District 5 as well as L.A. communities, including Los Feliz, Silver Lake and Eagle Rock.

“Right now, he is about 270 votes shy of 50%,” said political consultant Parke Skelton, whose firm worked in support of Sanchez.

Skelton estimated there could be about 4,500 ballots yet to count for that contest; Sanchez would need 54% of those to avoid a runoff.

“Tough, but certainly possible,” Skelton said. “The key point, though, is that the runoff looks much, much tougher for Kayser with Luis at 49%.”

On the other hand, Kayser, a retired teacher, can look with hope back to 1995, when teacher David Tokofsky finished well behind Lucia Rivera, but prevailed in a runoff. Tokofsky had the additional advantage of speaking Spanish in a heavily Latino district that was carved out with the idea of electing a Latino.

The campaign for Kayser was late getting into full swing because the teachers union initially endorsed a different candidate before throwing its resources behind Kayser.

The third-place finisher is retired teacher John Fernandez.

Sanchez, who is backed by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, hopes to claim some of Fernandez’s Latino support if there is a runoff.

Kayser would also try to grab Fernandez supporters who were attracted to a teacher, especially one who was critical of Villaraigosa’s influence in the school district.


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-- Howard Blume