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Outside spending tops $10 million, Zimmer steps up fundraising efforts in LAUSD election

Sarah Favot | May 5, 2017

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(Photo from Steve Zimmer’s campaign)

Outside groups have poured more than $10 million into the LA Unified school board election, which already this spring became the most expensive school board race in the nation.

When it comes to the money the candidates themselves have raised, board President Steve Zimmer stepped up his campaign fundraising efforts last month raising more than six times his previous month’s total, but he is still trailing far behind challenger Nick Melvoin, the latest campaign finance filings show.

Since the March 7 primary, Zimmer raised $105,971 as of April 29, while Melvoin raised $267,760 in the District 4 race, city Ethics Commission filings published Thursday show. In District 6, Kelly Gonez continues to out-fundraise her opponent, Imelda Padilla, nearly raising as much as she raised before the primary with $124,710 as of April 29. Padilla raised $60,920.

Independent expenditure committees have spent more than $10 million so far on the primary and runoff elections. The previous record belonged to the 2013 race when $7.4 million was spent by outside groups. LA Unified elections are believed to be the most expensive in the country.

There are just 10 days left until the May 16 election.

The next campaign finance filings for candidates will be posted online on May 12. Independent expenditure committees must report on an ongoing basis.

Melvoin has continued to lead fundraising efforts. He raised more than $440,000 ahead of the primary and has said he wants to raise the same amount before the runoff. Candidates must open new bank accounts for the runoff and start fundraising from scratch. Individuals donations to candidates are capped at $1,100.

Many of Melvoin’s donors are prominent philanthropists like Eli and Edythe Broad, Bill and Susan Bloomfield, Frank and Kathrine Baxter, Gap co-founder Doris Fisher, Reed Hastings of Netflix, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and charter schools administrators and teachers. Of the donors who have given at least $100, 71 of 546 live outside California.

Many of Gonez’s financial backers mirror Melvoin’s, including the Broads, Baxters, Fisher, Hastings, and Bloomberg. Former LA Mayor Richard Riordan has donated. Of donors who have given $100 or more, 38 of 188 live outside California.

While Riordan has not given directly to Melvoin ahead of the runoff, he has donated $1 million to an IE that has spent money to oppose Zimmer.

Zimmer’s donors include many unions, like United Teachers Los Angeles, LA School Police, librarians, plumbers, and others. Forty-one of the 238 individual donors who gave $100 or more work for LA Unified. Seven donors live outside California.

Padilla’s donors also include many labor unions, like the teachers, school police, and plumbers. Thirty-one of 156 donors are employed by LA Unified. And just four donors live outside California.

Read LA School Report’s full series of coverage at LAUSD Race 2017.

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