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Bennett Kayser wins in close school board race, unofficial tally shows

May 18, 2011 | 12:47 am

Bennett Kayser, the candidate supported by the teachers union, narrowly beat out Luis Sánchez, who had been endorsed by the mayor, for the open seat on the Los Angeles Board of Education, according to unofficial returns early Wednesday morning.

Kayser and Sanchez were vying for the 5th District seat, which stretches from Los Feliz to Maywood. Neither candidate earned enough votes in the March primary to avoid a runoff, although about 1,500 more people voted for Sánchez in that contest.

The race marked the first time in this campaign cycle that a candidate supported by the teachers union directly faced a candidate backed by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Four officials on the seven-member school board already align on many issues with the mayor, who helped support their campaigns. 

The race had turned more negative as election day drew closer, with each candidate accusing the other of ethics violations, although neither were ever sanctioned by the city's Ethics Commission.

Sánchez, who serves as chief of staff to the school board president, said he would be able to help continue reforms at the nation's second-largest district, and Kayser, a retired teacher, said he was more in tune with the city's instructors and less beholden to special interests.

Kayser did almost none of his own fundraising and was heavily supported financially by United Teachers Los Angeles.

-- Jason Song