The fight for second place — and a spot in a May runoff election — in the race for a vacant seat on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education tightened Tuesday, with former teacher and mayoral aide Heather Repenning clinging to a 35-vote lead.
Former LAUSD board member Jackie Goldberg continued to dominate the 10-candidate field from the March 5 election, but with slightly more than 48 percent of the vote, she fell short of the majority needed to avoid a May 14 runoff election.
That means the second-place finisher in the race will square off with Goldberg in May. The updated vote tally released Tuesday showed Repenning with 4,334 votes, or 13.13 percent, compared to 4,299 votes, or 13.02 percent, for Huntington Park City Councilwoman Graciela “Grace” Ortiz.
On election night, Ortiz originally emerged in second place with a 54-vote lead. But as county officials continued tallying mail-in, provisional and other ballots, Repenning jumped into second place late last week with a 133-vote lead over Ortiz.
Repenning, a former teacher and aide to Mayor Eric Garcetti, expressed confidence Tuesday that she would make the runoff election, despite her narrow lead.
“In case there was any question how much every vote counts, we just received the most recent update on last Tuesday’s election results,” she wrote on Twitter. “We are on pace to make the runoff by a margin of just 35 votes — with fewer than 100 ballots left to count. These results show how critical every last vote is, and how important your support has been.”
The next update on the vote-counting is scheduled to be released Friday.
The District 5 vacancy was created in July when board member Ref Rodriguez pleaded guilty to conspiracy and other charges for laundering campaign donations from family and friends. He resigned from his board seat the same day.
District 5 stretches from Eagle Rock, Highland Park and to Atwater Village, Los Feliz, and Silver Lake south to Vernon, Maywood, Huntington Park, Cudahy, South Gate and Bell.
Goldberg, 74, is a former teacher, LAUSD board member, Los Angeles City Council member and Democratic state legislator. Two LAUSD board members last year unsuccessfully tried to have her appointed to the seat to serve out the balance of Rodriguez’s term, which runs through next year. But the proposal was rejected in favor of calling the special election.
Goldberg is heavily backed by United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing the district’s teachers. The union has been pouring money into Goldberg’s campaign, hoping to undo a board majority that generally favored expansion of charter schools in the district.
Rodriguez’s departure left the board with a 3-3 split on the issue, and a Goldberg victory would swing the panel back in UTLA’s favor.
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