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EXCLUSIVE: Greg Martayan endorses Steve Zimmer in LAUSD school board race

Sarah Favot | May 10, 2017

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Greg Martayan, the fourth-place finisher in the primary election who received a crucial number of votes that could sway the outcome in the runoff, has endorsed Steve Zimmer, he told LA School Report on Wednesday.

Martayan joins a number of other high-profile endorsements in the most expensive school board race in U.S. history. U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders also endorsed Zimmer last week.

“I have a great deal of concern with all of the out-of-state money that’s coming in to buy the election,” Martayan said. “I made that clear during the primary, and it continues to be a concern of mine when the Los Angeles city-based election is being influenced by a great deal of funding that’s coming from out of town and the folks that are putting in that funding do not know Angeleno children.”

• It’s less than a week til the May 16 election: Read LA School Report’s full series of coverage at LAUSD Race 2017.

After the March primary for the LA Unified District 4 board seat, Martayan held a great deal of power as the 6,189 votes he received, if added to either Nick Melvoin’s or Zimmer’s vote total in the runoff, would clinch the win. Board President Zimmer received about 47 percent of the votes, while Melvoin received 33 percent. The other candidate in the primary, Allison Holdorff-Polhill who finished in third place, immediately endorsed Melvoin after the primary, likely delivering to Melvoin her 14 percent of the vote.

Martayan said the biggest reason he decided to endorse Zimmer was the out-of-state funding that Melvoin has received.

“It’s gotten ridiculous,” he said.

During the primary, Martayan frequently railed against the outside spending in the race, which has climbed to $11.4 million. He did not receive any support from outside groups and nearly all of his campaign donors were from Southern California.

Of Melvoin’s donors who have given at least $100 to his campaign, 71 of 546 live outside California, according to the latest campaign finance filings. Among his high-profile, out-of-state donors is former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Of Zimmer’s 238 individual donors who have given $100 or more, seven live outside of California.

More than half of all the outside money that has been spent in the race has been on the District 4 seat which includes the city’s west side, a portion of the west San Fernando Valley and Hollywood.

Zimmer has the backing of the teachers union and other labor groups, while Melvoin has support from the California Charter Schools Association Advocates and other deep-pocketed reformers like former LA Mayor Richard Riordan.

Martayan said it took him several weeks to make his decision because he wanted to hear from the community.

“I wanted to gauge the community,” he said. “I had lots of meetings throughout the district with Angelenos, with parents, with students, who told me about their experiences in LAUSD. I wanted to wait to see how both sides were going to roll out their plan for the election. The out-of-state monies really were the cherry on top that kind of pushed me towards Steve.”

Martayan’s platform during the primary included transparency, cutting red tape, kosher food options in schools, and funding for the arts.

“Steve has expressed that the platforms we ran on were priorities for him,” Martayan said.

Martayan said he and Melvoin have a “great relationship.”

“I think Nick is a stellar individual and a very kind-hearted individual, but my decision isn’t based on Nick. My decision is based on all of the out-of-state money that’s trying to influence the race.”

“I hope that Nick still wants to come up and give me a hug every time he sees me,” Martayan said.

Martayan also said he is endorsing Imelda Padilla in District 6.

Imelda and I have known each other for over 15 years,” he said. 

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