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Money still flowing for LAUSD board races, but does it matter?

LA School Report | May 5, 2015

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Tamar Galatzan and Scott Schmerelson at District 3 Candidates Forum

Tamar Galatzan and Scott Schmerelson at District 3 Candidates Forum


Two weeks from the May 19 runoff elections, outside money continues to pour in for two incumbents on the LA Unified board — Tamar Galatzan in District 3 and President Richard Vladovic in District 7.

A third incumbent — Bennett Kayser in District 5 — still trails far behind his challenger, Ref Rodriguez.

Here’s what the outside money race looks like so far, according to the City Ethics Commission accounting:

District 3: $405,621 for Galatzan, $305,024 for Scott Schmerelson.

District 5: $161,633 for Kayser, $823,275 for Rodriguez.

District 7: $122,122 for Vladovic, $0 for Lydia Gutierrez.

So what’s it all mean? Maybe nothing.

LA Unified election history is filled with well-funded candidates turned aside by voters, unimpressed or disgusted with the large amounts of money spent to influence a race through barrages of phone calls, mailers and campaign fliers.

In 2013, forces supporting reform candidate Antonio Sanchez pumped more than $2 million into his District 6 showdown with Monica Ratliff, whose outside support amounted to $1,479. Groups supporting Kate Anderson in District 4 outspent those aiding Steve Zimmer by a 3-to-2 margin.

Ratliff and Zimmer emerged the winners.

Two years earlier, supporters for Luis Sanchez in District 5 outspent groups for Kayser, and Kayser won.

In elections likely to draw only a small percentage of registered voters, candidate preferences are more likely to be determined by ground-game efforts, such as knocking on doors, and word-of-mouth recommendations.

Even the political action committee of the California Charter Schools Association, which has spent lavishly to help Galatzan, Rodriguez and Vladovic, recognizes the limits of spending.

“These races will not be won with money,” said Gary Borden of CCSA Advocates, the charters’ PAC. “They will be won with good old-fashioned community organizing, folks talking to each other, educating each other, rallying around candidates they believe in. Authentic community support is what will decide these races.”

*Updates numbers, to include totals as of today.

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