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Election Day: Voter Turnout Will Determine Outcome

Hillel Aron | May 21, 2013

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In today’s School Board District 6 election, Antonio Sanchez remains the strong favorite over his opponent, Monica Ratliff, thanks in part to the overwhelming advantage in campaign contributions to both Sanchez’s campaign and two independent campaigns on his behalf.

Sanchez’s Latino surname and fluency in Spanish is also a built-in advantage (though Ratliff’s mother is from Mexico).

“You’re looking at a very Latino district,” said Mike Shimpock, Sanchez’s campaign consultant. “And this is a district where ethnic identity voting still makes a difference on election day.”

Internal polls are said to show a decisive advantage for Sanchez, but voter turnout could play a huge role.

“If the turnout is above 15 percent, Sanchez wins running away,” said Brent Smiley, a teacher and vice chair of UTLA’s political action committee. “If it’s below 15 percent, then things get interesting.”

The Ratliff campaign has been hampered by the fact that the candidate has kept her day job, teaching at San Pedro Elementary, leaving her fairly little time to raise money and talk to voters.

“For better or worse, School Board districts are huge, and it’s almost impossible to win if you have no opportunity to campaign in front of voters,” said Shimpock.

He’s predicting a 10 point victory for his client — roughly the same margin of victory that Sanchez held over Ratliff in the primary.

A source close to the Coalition for School Reform’s campaign on behalf of Sanchez said a recent internal poll had Sanchez over the 50 percent threshold, but declined to say what the margin was.

The Coalition, which has spent $3.8 million on three 2013 School Board races, has run a decidedly low-key campaign in the primary, running no TV ads, sending out only positive mailers, and spending less money than it did during the primary.

“The plan was always to have money in the hopper for the next race, in case the next mayor doesn’t raise money,” said one pro-school reform insider.

Even so, the Coalition and SEIU Local 99 have spent over $2 million on behalf of Sanchez. Ratliff, by comparison, had spent $55,000 as of May 14, much of it on a handful of slate mailers and direct mail — as well as some rulers identifying her as “Mònica” Ratliff — in an attempt to remind voters that she’s half Latina.

Though she has made remarks about wanting to get rid of “big money” from the School Board race, Ratliff has not gone on the attack against her opponent.

District 6 turnout in the primary was 17.6 percent, about 3.5 percentage points lower than city-wide turnout, which is expected by many to rise by a few points, perhaps to about 25 percent, in the runoff.

“Historically, there’s a five to eight percent boost in turnout [from the primary to the runoff],” said Shimpock. “I think it’s gonna be even less this time. And this district would behave similarly.”

Smiley, who’s volunteering for Ratliff’s campaign, issued a bold prediction:

“I think [turnout’s] gonna be less than 15 [percent]. I’ve been knocking on doors. The most common response is, ‘Sanchez who?’ and ‘Ratliff who?’ Neither side has reached enough voters.”

The Coalition source told us that based on early returns, the number of absentee ballots was expected to be roughly the same as it was in the primary.

One wild card is the City Council primary, which includes sitting School Board member Nury Martinez. If voters are excited about that race, it could push turnout up.

But even if turnout does drop tomorrow, Sanchez still remains the slight favorite, if for no other reason than he’ll have a field campaign run by the SEIU Local 99, the union which represents classified workers (and went undefeated in the primary).

“[Steve] Zimmer wouldn’t have won without the SEIU on his side,” said one former consultant aligned with UTLA. “Monica [Ratliff]’s got none of that.”

Previous posts: Walking San Fernando with Antonio SanchezDoor-to-Door in Sunland with Monica RatliffEast Valley Power Politics Shaped District 6 RunoffReform Coalition Focuses Massive War Chest on Mailers

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