3 teachers get UTLA endorsements despite low money support
Vanessa Romo | March 27, 2014
By voting to endorse three candidates last night for the LA Unified’s District 1 board seat, the UTLA House of Representatives chose to back two teachers and a former teacher who have raised a combined $8,440 for their election efforts.
While that honors Sherlett Hendy-Newbill, Rachel Johnson and the former instructor, Hattie McFrazier, their meager financial support so far, compared with the money leaders, Alex Johnson ($113,051) and Genethia Hudley-Hayes ($56,070), could mean an even greater disadvantage for the union. Hendy-Newbill raised $4,836; McFrazier, $3,604; Johnson, $0.
With its three choices long-shots, as measured by donor contributions, the union is in jeopardy of losing the kind of sure support it always had in Marguerite LaMotte, whose death in December created the vacancy.
Both Johnson and Hudley-Hayes and, to an extent George McKenna, the third-place finisher in money raised ($45,948), are not viewed as rubber-stamp voters for the union, which means if any of them wins, key board votes could easily go 4-3 against union interests.
In a final vote by the union reps, the three-way endorsement prevailed, 101 to 31. The remaining candidate, Omarosa Manigault, a substitute teacher, has raised $4,450 but failed to win union backing.
“I am really surprised,” McFrazier said of the multiple endorsements. “This is not the right strategy to take. As a union we should be supporting one candidate and stand behind that person. By supporting three, you don’t really have an advantage at all.”
Some union reps recalled Monica Garcia‘s victory for the District 2 board seat last year after the union endorsed three of her challengers.
“Last year we did a multiple endorsement, and that failed,” said John Paul Cabrera. “This time we have two well-funded candidates. We need a single clear message. We need a viable candidate who can raise money and win.”
Others said the union is in no financial position to back anyone.
“UTLA is broke,” said Francisco Martinez. “We don’t have money. How are we going to pay to endorse a person? Just saying we endorse someone doesn’t get them elected.”
“In the Zimmer race, they outspent us four to one and we still won,” he said.
The committee has already discussed a three-way endorsement, but Flores declined to provide details. He said what happens next largely depends on an Independent Expenditure committee to be formed within the week. It will develop a strategy and budget.
Flores contemplated some of the possible matchups, should the June 3 special election fail to produce a winner, and the top two candidates move on to an August runoff. In that case, the union would reconsider its possibilities for an endorsement.
“If it comes down to Hattie McFrazier and George McKenna, then the question is can we live with McKenna’s unfriendly dislike of Deasy?” Flores said, referring to LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy. “I think so. If it’s Hayes and one of our candidates, then I can see it becoming a full-blown multi-million dollar campaign.”
He said Johnson, an education aide to LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, remains an unknown: “He worked with unions back east, and so far we haven’t heard anything from AFT telling us ‘destroy him’ ”
If the race came down to Johnson and Hudley-Hayes, it would be less costly to the union, he said, because they are engaged in a dispute over inconsistencies in Hudley-Hayes’s resume.
“She’s putting out all the trash about him,” Flores said. “We can just sit back and watch, we don’t have to pay for any of that research.”
And an endorsement in that matchup might be easier: “Hayes turned on us after we endorsed her,” he said.
Or, maybe, he said, the union might sit the whole race out, given that a winner in the runoff would remain on the board only through another election next year, when the seats for Districts 1, 3, 5 and 7 are up.
“We’re getting a lot of calls from our members saying we should just wait until the 2015 race – that’s only 8 months away from the general election in August,” he said. “They’re saying we should save our money and resources.”