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Rachel Johnson has experience, if not cash, for school board race

Vanessa Romo | April 2, 2014

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Rachel Johnson

Rachel Johnson

In keeping with the start of the baseball season this week, let’s use a baseball analogy: Rachel Johnson has a Hall of Fame batting average in running for office.

Since 2001 when she was first elected as the City Clerk of Gardena, Johnson has run four successful campaigns for elected office — a second term for City Clerk, then three separate races for Gardena City Council. Her only loss came last year, running for mayor of Gardena.

Her next at-bat, if you will, is for a seat on the LA Unified school board, representing District 1.

“Running in a big race is not new to me,” she told LA School Report. “I’ve done this before, but I know I’m up against some formidable candidates, and it’s not going to be easy.”

In addition to sitting on the Gardena City Council, Johnson is a full-time district kindergarten teacher with 30 years on job. That helped her secure one of the three endorsements from UTLA, the teachers union. But it has left her little time to do major campaign fundraising before the June 3 special election.

As of March 17, the most recent campaign finance filing deadline from the City Ethics Commission, Johnson reported raising zero dollars, putting her dead last among the seven candidates running.

She acknowledges that has put her at a disadvantage. “Politics is money and man power,” she said. “I’m well aware of the power of the dollar in political campaigns.”

Johnson explains she has received campaign contributions but just hasn’t deposited the checks. So far, she says, she has about $7,000 and hopes to have $10,000 by the weekend.

That would put her ahead of Hattie McFrazier and Sherlett Hendy-Newbill, the two other candidates with UTLA endorsements, who have raised about $3,500 and $5,000, respectively.

But it is a long way from the two candidates whose coffers runneth over: Alex Johnson, who leads the field with $113,000 in donations, and Genethia Hudley-Hayes, who reported just over $93,000.

While Rachel Johnson says she never expected to lead the pack in fundraising, what “makes it a struggle,” she said, is watching previous supporters have move on to Alex Johnson in the school board race.

“Some of the financial support that I have enjoyed in the past, or have had the advantage of using and utilizing in the past, are now focused on Alex Johnson,” she said, and that includes the endorsement of LA County Board Supervisor, Mark Ridley-Thomas, who is supporting Alex Johnson in the school board race. That Johnson works for Ridley-Thomas as a staffer.

“I’ve always enjoyed the support of [Ridley-Thomas] in all my races,” she said.

But even without the big bucks or the big names she’s not deflated.

Monica Ratliff is my new poster girl!,” she says enthusiastically.

Ratliff, who won a seat on the school board last year despite being outspent four-to-one, is often cited by UTLA members as the avatar of door-to-door stumping over the well-financed  political machinery of billionaires.

Johnson says Ratliff showed LA that grass-roots campaigns do work.

“You just have to get out there and share your vision and trust the voters can tell the difference.” she said.

Previous Posts: 3 teachers get UTLA endorsements; Alex Johnson opens wide lead in fundraisingLAUSD District 1 election still open to write in.

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