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Looking Back at the 2011 Runoff

Samantha Oltman | March 15, 2013

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2011 School Board runoff competitors Bennett Kayser and Luis Sanchez

At first glance, the upcoming District 6 (East San Fernando Valley) runoff election between Antonio Sanchez and Monica Ratliff looks like it might share many similarities to the District 5 election two years ago.

The 2011 runoff (for an area running from Los Feliz to Maywood) pitted reform candidate Luis Sanchez (no relation to Antonio) against union-backed candidate Bennett Kayser.

Like this year’s District 6 election, the race attracted substantial outside spending, went into a runoff, and its battle lines were drawn around issues like teacher evaluations, budget plans, and school choice.

This year’s race has “a similar dynamic” to 2011, according to Luis Sanchez, who now works with the California Endowment.

There are a number of big differences, however — including that the 2013 race hasn’t yet been dominated by candidates and outside advocates attacking each other.

The 2011 showdown between Luis Sanchez and Bennett Kayser was a particularly nasty contest — including negative mailers and mutual accusations of ethical lapses — even though control of the LAUSD School Board wasn’t considered to be at risk of switching from one side to the other.

The 2011 spending was also substantial on both sides. Sanchez was endorsed by Mayor Villaraigosa and SEIU Local 99 and was chief of staff for School Board President Monica Garcia. Kayser was endorsed by the teachers and administrators unions.

The teachers union spent almost $1.4 million to help Kayser win his Board seat — half of which was spent on attack ads against Sanchez. The Coalition for School Reform and the LA County Federation of Labor also spent big, pouring $1.6 million into the race on Sanchez’s behalf.

So far this year, the teachers union hasn’t spent any money on the District 6 race.

Last but not least, voter turnout for the 2011 runoff was less than 10 percent, according to the Los Angeles Times — in part because the race was not thought to determine control of the seven-member Board.

This year’s District 6 School Board runoff election is expected to have a relatively high turnout because City Hall is up for grabs.

“I don’t think it will be as contentious,” Sanchez said. “The only way it could be is if there was nothing else on the ballot and there was really low voter turnout.”

At this point in the process, nobody knows yet if UTLA-PACE will raise or spend funds on the District runoff. But even if UTLA-PACE does start spending — and even if it’s only on behalf of one candidate — Sanchez may be in a better position to win because he has a UTLA endorsement, and the Coalition for School Reform and the LA County Fed have already spent $1.2 million to support him.

“The reality in these races is, you don’t win unless you’ve built a strong coalition of labor and elected officials backing you,” said Sanchez.
Ratliff has won endorsements from the LA Times and Daily News but hasn’t received any outside endorsements beyond the teachers union.
Then again, Sanchez had more endorsements and a slight funding advantage in 2011, and still didn’t win.  In what KPCC described as an “upset,” Sanchez lost by fewer than 1,000 votes.

Previous posts: District 6 Candidates Struggle to Differentiate Themselves; Union Endorsements Unchanged for District 6; Just How Connected Is Antonio Sanchez?; Memo to Voters: Attack Ads on the Horizon

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