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Campaign 2013: Cheers — and Confusion

Hillel Aron | May 23, 2013

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At about noon on Wednesday, District 6 School Board candidate Antonio Sanchez conceded the race to his opponent, Monica Ratliff, and wished her good luck  — an hour or two after the Coalition for School Reform had already done so.

“From what I’ve seen, from the reports, I believe Monica’s the winner,” he told LA School Report. “I wish Monica and everybody on the School Board success.”

In a written statement, the teachers union congratulated Ratliff on her victory: “We are overjoyed that a working classroom teacher will be on the School Board.  Ms. Ratliff has seen firsthand the kind of harm that is done when a District is mismanaged.”

UTLA also trumpeted its support for its endorsed Mayoral candidate, Eric Garcetti, who handily defeated Wendy Greuel to become the next Mayor of Los Angeles.

Since LA School Report wrote about the campaign aftermath yesterday morning (see: How Ratliff Won & Reformers Lost), reactions and post-election analysis have continued to pour in, including exultation from Ratliff supporters and head-scratching from Sanchez allies.

Thus far, at least, there’s no real consensus about why Sanchez lost or — just as interesting — exactly how Ratliff won. But there are lots of theories.

One general theme emerging from Tuesday night’s municipal election was the limited effectiveness of special interest money.

Greuel had been the recipient of millions of dollars from public employee unions, which commentators are now saying hurt her campaign.

Likewise, Sanchez was the recipient of money from both deep-pocketed “school reformers” and service workers — and if it didn’t hurt, it certainly didn’t help enough to bring home a win.

“Right now we’re in this moment where big money just makes people skeptical,” said consultant Glenn Gritzner, who often works for charter schools and other education-related clients.

“Overcoming financial odds of this size … suggests a big difference in the allure of the candidates and the ability to make big money unattractive,” said Charles Kerchner, labor and education politics professor at Claremont Graduate University in the LA Times.

USC political science Professor Dan Schnur argued that voters were more concerned with the Mayor’s race, and most of them probably decided who to vote for while they were already at the polls.

“These candidates were largely overshadowed by the citywide races,” Schnur told LA School Report. “Most voters probably made the decision based on ballot designation.”

The ballot designation label that appeared below Ratliff’s name was “fifth grade teacher.”

But many of those who watched the race were also saying that the reform community picked the wrong candidate to promote.

Some called for a candidate like Iris Zuniga with a connection to public education in Los Angeles.

“Antonio wasn’t the right candidate up there,” said one prominent reform-aligned official. “I was very clear with people.”

The final choice was, reportedly, made by outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, for whom Sanchez worked as an aide for six years. Villaraigosa was also the chief fundraiser for the Coalition.

When asked to comment on the School Board election results, Villaraigosa spokesman Vicki Curry emailed: “The Mayor doesn’t have a separate statement from the Coalition.”

“Sometimes, getting all of the support is worse than getting some of the support,” said Raphael Sonenshein, the executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles, in the LA Daily News.

For his part, Sanchez didn’t have any clear answer about why he’d lost.  “I’m disappointed. I really thought that we built a really good team, a really good coalition,” he told LA School Report. To think back on the last seven months, I dedicated night and day to this campaign. I’m surprised.”

Theories about how and why Ratliff won were somewhat less specific.

Refrigerator magnets, a core team of volunteers, and a focus on Sunland, Tujunga, and other promising precincts was a big part of her success, according to the LA Times.

“Even Ratliff’s supporters sounded pretty stunned,” according to LA Times editorial page writer Karin Kline.

After an election-night gathering held in her one-bedroom Sunland apartment, Ratliff was in her classroom bright and early yesterday morning, according to the Daily News, having received a congratulatory call from LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy.

Previous posts: How Ratliff Won (& Reformers Lost)Final Unofficial TallyRatliff Scores School Board UpsetRatliff Holds Narrow LeadVoter Turnout Will Determine Outcome

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