Two of the four open seats on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education look likely Tuesday evening to go to a November runoff, with the top two contenders in District 7 still undecided.
All of the odd-numbered district seats were up for election Tuesday, with the District 7 seat wide open due to incumbent Richard Vladovic being termed out of the post that covers South Los Angeles, Gardena, Watts and San Pedro.
Early returns showed former board member Mike Lansing, who held the post before Vladovic, leading the pack with about 25% of the vote. But three of the four remaining candidates were running neck-and-neck. With county returns trickling in, Patricia Castellanos, Tanya Ortiz Franklin and Lydia A. Gutierrez, a Long Beach Unified School District teacher, each had support from 21-22% of voters.
That race and others for the LAUSD board have revived the traditional battle between charter school backers and opponents.
Castellanos, a deputy for county Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, is being heavily backed by the teachers’ union, United Teachers Los Angeles, and on Monday she scored an endorsement from presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.
Lansing has received financial backing from Bill Bloomfield, a pro-charter school advocate who has been dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into the coffers of various candidates — raising the ire of the teachers’ union.
According to various estimates, the election is shaping up to be one of the most expensive in the district’s history, thanks largely to the influx of donations from charter-school backers.
Bloomfield has also contributed to the campaign for Franklin, a former teacher who works with the Partnership for L.A. Schools. Also in the running for the seat is Silke Bradford, who oversees charter schools in the Compton Unified School District but picked up less than 10% of early votes.
In District 5, which covers East Los Angeles and Los Feliz, incumbent Jackie Goldberg is positioned to ward off a challenge by Christina Martinez Duran, who has worked as a school-accreditation evaluator. Goldberg boasted 59% of early votes to Martinez Duran’s nearly 41%.
Goldberg, a longtime opponent of charter school expansion, has been targeted by Bloomfield, who according to various reports infused more than $780,000 into the campaign against her.
The District 3 race in the western San Fernando Valley, meanwhile, has become particularly volatile and is likely to go to a runoff in November. Incumbent Scott Schmerelson, who is seeking reelection, had 43% of early votes, with challenger and Granada Hills Charter High School staffer Marilyn Koziatek, who is backed by the California Charters Schools Association, picking up 31%.
The association has spent heavily in the race in hopes of unseating Schmerelson. One ad in the race drew condemnation for depicting Schmerelson, who is Jewish, wearing a gold chain and waving a wad of money, while falsely accusing him of inflating his own salary. Schmerelson denounced the mailer as anti-Semitic.
Activist Elizabeth Bartels-Badger is also in the race, but appears to be hard-pressed to catch the two front-runners, with support from roughly 25% of voters, based on preliminary results.
In District 1, incumbent George McKenna ran unopposed.
In each of the races, if no one earns 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters will advance to the November general election.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: