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Exclusive: Allison Holdorff Polhill comes out swinging against Steve Zimmer’s ‘misleading’ campaign tactics, vows to throw support to Melvoin in unseating board president

Sarah Favot | March 8, 2017

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Allison Holdorff Polhill voting Tuesday with her family, son Alex, husband Lucius and daughter Lucy.

Allison Holdorff Polhill voting Tuesday with son Alex, husband Lucius and daughter Lucy.

Allison Holdorff Polhill, who fell short of making the runoff by about 10,000 votes, said Wednesday the biggest challenges she faced in her campaign were misrepresentations about charter schools and the attempts that were made to align her with Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

“I am woefully disappointed in Steve Zimmer’s campaign tactics — hijacking the current anti-Trump political climate, purposely deceiving voters regarding public charter schools and suggesting that anyone who counters him supports Trump and DeVos,” Holdorff Polhill said.

Holdorff Polhill joined three others in challenging LA Unified school board President Steve Zimmer’s third and final re-election bid. Zimmer received 47 percent of the votes cast in Tuesday’s primary, according to unofficial election results, falling short of the more than 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. On May 16, Zimmer will go head-to-head with Nick Melvoin, who received 31 percent of the votes.

Reformers see this election as an opportunity to shift the makeup of the board from a pro-union majority to pro-reform. To do so, the reform-backed candidates must sweep the runoffs in District 4 and District 6.

The District 4 race, encompassing the city’s west side, was the most hard-fought battle of the three LAUSD board races on the ballot. Two factions — labor groups and charter school supporters and education reformers — spent nearly $4 million on the race through their independent expenditure committees. Zimmer had the backing from United Teachers Los Angeles and other labor groups, while Melvoin and Holdorff Polhill had the support of the California Charter Schools Association Advocates. Both sides stuffed postboxes with dozens of mailers and flooded TV, radio and digital space with negative ads.

A mailer sent by UTLA’s IE committee at the end of January depicted Melvoin and Holdorff Polhill under the headline “The candidates who will implement the Trump/Devos education agenda in LA.” Both candidates oppose Trump and DeVos, however, and oppose for-profit charter schools.

Holdorff Polhill said an email that Zimmer sent to his supporters in mid-February inserted the national discussion about Trump and DeVos into the school board race.

“It’s really misleading,” she said. “He has personally had his hand in that.”

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten Tweeted about the race Monday morning, also citing a “DeVos agenda” in the LA Unified vote.


Holdorff Polhill’s daughter, Lucy Polhill, 20, a student at UC Irvine, said she was making phone calls to voters on Monday on her mom’s behalf when a woman who lives in Pacific Palisades became very angry and called her mom a “privatizer.”

“She was saying how a charter means it’s a private school and the people running against Zimmer are for privatization,” Lucy Polhill said.

“It really surprised me, but at the same time people with the strongest opinions tend to have misinformation, but it was very surprising that she lived in our neighborhood and she would still think (Pali High) was a private school,” she said. Her mother served on the board of Palisades Charter High School, where she and her two brothers attended.

Hordorff Polhill said there were other examples of that kind of rhetoric when she and her canvassers knocked on doors.

“I felt like our biggest challenge was overcoming complete misinformation about charter schools being public as opposed to private,” she said.

Holdorff Polhill said she would throw her support behind Melvoin in the runoff. Together, they won 45 percent of the vote, just two percentage points behind Zimmer.

Her backing of Melvoin doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

In a debate, challenger Greg Martayan quipped that when Holdorff Polhill looks in the mirror, she sees Melvoin and when Melvoin looks in the mirror, he sees Holdorff Polhill.

“I think (Melvoin) will win, but he also has to deal with a campaign where Steve Zimmer and those who are backing him are intentionally trying to misinform and scare the public,” she said. “But I know that parents and teachers and community members are smart enough to be discerning and I know at the end of the day, they will be. I sure hope they will be.”

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