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Commentary: Who Won the LA Times Endorsement Contest?*

Alexander Russo | February 18, 2013

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Reactions so far to the LA Times editorial page endorsements have been mixed. Nearly everyone agrees that newspaper endorsements aren’t likely to make or break a close School Board race.  Opinions differ on whether the LA Times editorial page is pro-union or pro-reform.

Indeed, the Friday endorsements were a mixed bag and doled out criticism of both UTLA and the reform camps: “At times, the reform movement is given to its own unproductive extremes…. Meanwhile, the close allies of United Teachers Los Angeles are as hostile to reform as ever.”

All that being said, there were some clear winners — Kate Anderson, Monica Ratliff — and clear losers  — Steve Zimmer, Antonio Sanchez. The paper’s endorsement of Monica Garcia was so sneering it’s hard to imagine it will be very much help at all (though of course will be used on campaign materials, as will the juicy quotes against her).  The biggest winner of them all might have been LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy.

Some observers were surprised and pleased at the paper’s choice of challenger Kate Anderson over District 4 incumbent Steve Zimmer.  “The LA Times editorial board is not in the reform camp,” said a reform-side insider who did not wish to be named.  “Zimmer’s policies are in some ways aligned with the editorial board’s position, but i think they saw through his transparent attempts to placate UTLA.”

LA Times endorsements are only meaningful if a candidate has the resources to let voters know he/she has the endorsement,” said Michael Trujillo a veteran of LA school board races (most of them working for reform candidates). “In this case the reform side clearly won.”

Indeed, the editorial page tapped two out of three of the Coalition candidates — albeit backhandedly.

The endorsement of District 2 incumbent Monica Garcia was harsh in its assessment:  “We consider Garcia a poor choice for the school board, and we always have…. Yet we see no real alternative.”  Anderson’s endorsement wasn’t whole-hearted, either: “It’s disturbing that a lawyer would lobby for a bill without having vetted it thoroughly.”

Perhaps the biggest loser in the endorsements race was District 6 candidate Antonio Sanchez, whom the page called out as a lightweight despite his endorsements from both UTLA and the Coalition.

A close second might be Zimmer, who had reasonable hopes of getting the nod over Anderson.  Instead: “He has fallen short in the execution of his goals, with proposals that smacked of trying to please union bosses.”

The biggest winner might have been Ratliff, in District 6: “Personable, articulate and sharp, she strikes us as a candidate who would think her positions through carefully and debate with an open mind. If only there were more candidates like her running for the school board.”

An even bigger winner might have been LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, about whom the editorial page wrote: “Much better to have a superintendent who occasionally needs to be reined in than one who isn’t striving, every day, to improve the future for impoverished black and Latino students…  The superintendent is far more important to the schools than the quality of any single board member.”

Deasy isn’t on the ballot — at least not officially.  But the race has turned in part into a referendum on his leadership and whether he should continue or not.

Correction:  The original version of this post got Kate Anderson’s first name wrong.  

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