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Anderson: Turnout Projections Crippled Field Budget

Alexander Russo | April 4, 2013

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Former District 4 (Westside/Hollywood) School Board candidate Kate Anderson sounded relaxed and content during a phone interview yesterday afternoon.

The Mar Vista parent laughed easily and often, and said she was getting to see her children a lot more in the month since the March 5 primary.

But she wasn’t without ideas and regrets in terms of the campaign she’d just been through against District 4 School Board Member Steve Zimmer.

Many of her observations about the race — low turnout on primary day and the unwanted distractions of the outside contributions to the Coalition for School Reform — are familiar.

However, Anderson also put a finger on inaccurate voter turnout projections that shaped her campaign budget decisions and ultimately sealed her fate.

If she’d known how low turnout was really going to be, her campaign would have spent less on a big initial early mailing.

“I would have mailed to a much smaller universe at the start, and then focused much more on the field.”

By and large, Anderson seemed content with the race she’d run — and the outcome.

“I’m disappointed about having lost, but I am still so energized by this campaign and by the momentum and the energy that I saw out on the campaign trail,” she said.

She said she didn’t wish that she’d attacked Zimmer for his indecisiveness or his tenure on the Board during a teacher sex abuse scandal, which some observers had expected and encouraged her to do.

“I had a very positive message of change, which was really resonating with the people that we were talking to. I think that was the right message for me to delivering.”

In fact, she said that she had emerged from the process respecting Zimmer, and that they were planning to meet and share ideas in the near future.

“I have deep respect for Steve, and believe he’s truly in this for the right reasons,” she said.  “I genuinely like him as a person.”

Her explanation for why she lost largely mirrored those that have been given by others in the past month (see: A Good – But Not Great – Campaign, Say Reform Insiders).

The campaign was out-organized in terms of field operations by the teachers union, UTLA, and she was defeated largely by absentee ballots cast before primary day.

“That’s the place where knocking door to door makes a difference,” said Anderson.

It wasn’t so much that Anderson’s campaign started late or did anything obviously mistaken, she said. It was mostly a matter of not having enough money.

“If I’d had twice as much money, I would have been able to have staffed a much more robust field campaign.”

“It makes me so sad,” said Anderson about primary-day turnout that was projected to be in the high 20s but ended up at just 22.5 percent for District 4.

“If turnout had been just dismal — instead of abysmal — I would have won.”

Anderson declined to comment directly on the campaign effort mounted by the Coalition for School reform on her behalf.

“As a candidate it’s a bit surreal to have a substantial IE [independent expenditure committee] operating alongside your own campaign,” she said.  “However, I’m grateful to for their effort.”

However, she did remark on the distractions that the outside funding created.

“What was disappointing to me was how much attention and focus that ended up getting,” she said.  “It took away from the real attention and parent support that we were building.”

Throughout the interview, Anderson sounded upbeat and optimistic.
“I would love to see LA come together and really harness the energy that I saw,” said Anderson.  “People want to be reinvesting and getting involved in LAUSD; they see real potential.”

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