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On the Ballot, Everyone’s a “Teacher”

Hillel Aron | January 30, 2013

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When it comes to running for School Board, it’s good to be a teacher.

No less than five out of 11 candidates  — Annamarie Montanez, current Board Member Steve Zimmer, Isabel Vazquez, Abelardo Diaz, and Monica Ratliff — are listed on the ballot as “teacher” (whether they’re currently in the classroom or not).

Two other candidates list their jobs as “educator” — Robert Skeels and Antonio Sanchez.  (See full list of city-wide ballot designations here.)

There’s a good reason candidates choose these labels.  So-called “ballot designations” — the brief identifying descriptions that follow each candidate’s name on ballots — can be surprisingly important, according to campaign veterans, and are at least occasionally disputed for being inaccurate.

Steve Barkan, a political consultant for SG&A who is running School Board President Monica Garcia’s re-election campaign, says that his client has the best ballot designation of them all: “Member of the Board of Education.”

According to Barkan, other desirable descriptions include “teacher, educator, or anything that ties them to a school.”

“Educator” is pretty vague, but sometimes, being vague is helpful.  In 2008, the “educator” ballot designation for Board Member Nury Martinez was challenged by her opponent (see this LA Daily News account).

So do ballot designations matter? Sort of.

“Typically, it makes a bigger difference in races where there’s not as much information or awareness of the candidates,” Barkan says. “Like in a judicial race — you’re looking at names, ethnic identification, and ballot title.

“In a School Board race, it’s less important, but still important. There will be a lot of voter contact on both sides. But you do want something that’s education-related.”

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