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LAUSD school board candidate drops out, replaced by her twin

Vanessa Romo | May 16, 2014

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Barbara Torres SEIU Local 99 LAUSD

Barbara Torres is sworn into office by Local 99 Treasurer Maggie Johnson

Barbara Torres, the president of SEIU 99, one of the most powerful unions in the Los Angeles school district, said today she is stepping aside in the 2015 race for school board in District 5, currently held by school board member Bennett Kayser.

Torres said she made her decision after a story in LA School Report revealed that SEIU executives were concerned about the potential conflict of interest.

But that doesn’t mean Kayser is without a challenger. As of today, he has a new one: Barbara Torres’s twin sister, Kathryn Torres, who is also an official at SEIU 99, and currently chairperson of the union’s political action committee.

Barbara Torres had been serving as vice president of the union when she filed papers to run against Kayser last fall. She inherited the top leadership job in December, when her predecessor, Eddie Reed, died unexpectedly in office.

LA School Report published a story last month questioning Barbara Torres’ duel role as both a member of the union’s bargaining committee, which is negotiating a new labor contract with the school district’s board, and as a candidate for school board. Courtni Pugh, executive director of SEIU was quoted as saying lawyers at SEIU were launching an investigation.

Today, Torres said she was stepping down in the best interests of the union.  “My goal is to stabilize the union and take it where it needs to be,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of issues inside and outside, and I just want to get us back on track after so many internal problems.”

She continued, “We’re in the middle of a big campaign for our contract. We haven’t received a cost of living increase since 2006…And I made the decision that the union work is most important at this time.”

Although the City Ethics Commission website still listed her today as a candidate, she contends she has formally withdrawn from the race.

“No, I’m not running against my sister,” she insisted, referring to her twin, Kathryn. “I filed the paperwork with City Ethics on Wednesday. It just takes a few days to update the web site.”

In a separate, 1-minute telephone interview, Kathryn Torres confirmed she’s in, saying, “I will be running against Bennett Kayser.” She said she had no more time to discuss her decision and ended the call.

It is unclear whether the union will allow her to remain as chair of the union’s political action committee which historically has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars toward the election and defeat of school board candidates.

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