Most incumbents see success in California and Alabama school board races

Mar 10 2017

A total of 80 percent of school board incumbents who ran in primary and general elections in Alabama and California on March 7, 2017, won re-election to their seats outright or advanced to general or runoff elections. A total of 15 seats were up for election in three school districts in the two states. Ten of those races were determined when candidates won a majority of the votes cast for their seat, but the other five advanced to general or runoff elections to be held in April and May 2017.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District primary, the District 4 and 6 races were winnowed down to a matchup of teachers union-backed candidates and candidates supported by the California Charter Schools Association who will face off in the general election on May 16, 2017. District 4 incumbent and board President Steve Zimmer, who was endorsed by United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), will face challenger Nick Melvoin, who was endorsed by CCSA Advocates. In the general election for the open

An open seat or election is one in which the incumbent officeholder does not seek re-election.

District 6 seat, CCSA Advocates-endorsed candidate Kelly Fitzpatrick-Gonez will face UTLA-endorsed candidate Imelda Padilla. District 2 incumbent Mónica García defeated two challengers with a majority of the votes in the primary and won re-election outright.[1][2][3][4]

The Pasadena Unified School District also held a primary election on March 7, 2017. All four winners in the race—District 1 incumbent Kimberly Kenne, District 3 challenger Michelle Richardson-Bailey, District 5 incumbent Elizabeth Pomeroy, and District 7 incumbent Scott Phelps—won terms on the board without needing to advance to a general election, as they received over 50 percent of the votes.[5] Phelps was unopposed in his re-election bid, and Kenne, Richardson-Bailey, and Pomeroy had been endorsed by The Pasadena Star-News, The San Gabriel Valley Tribune, and the organization ACT Pasadena.[6][7][8] Richardson-Bailey, the only candidate who defeated an incumbent in the district’s 2013, 2015, and 2017 elections, was also endorsed by United Teachers of Pasadena.[9]

A total of 19 candidates sought the eight seats up for election on the Tuscaloosa City Schools Board of Education on March 7, 2017. Four years after allegations of voter fraud were made in the district’s 2013 elections, District 4 incumbent Cason Kirby did not seek re-election to his seat. In addition to Kirby, three other incumbents did not file to run for re-election, guaranteeing that at least four newcomers will join the board. In the races for the District 1, 2, and 5 seats, no candidate received at least 50 percent of the vote. The top two vote recipients in those races will advance to a runoff election on April 18, 2017. Two of the four incumbents who ran for re-election won outright in the primary, as did three of the four newcomers who ran in open

An open seat or election is one in which the incumbent officeholder does not seek re-election.

races. The runoff elections feature one open seat, one seat in which an incumbent is seeking re-election, and one seat in which candidates are running to replace the incumbent who was defeated in the general election.[10]

See also: Los Angeles Unified School District elections (2017)

Outside campaign spending—money given to campaigns or political action committees (PAC) that are not under the control of a candidate—was seven times higher in the three races for the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education than in the city’s elections for 11 municipal offices that shared a primary ballot with the school district. The highest outside spending for board of education seats occurred in District 4.[11]

The four candidates who ran in the District 4 primary election also raised more money than the other two seats’ nine candidates combined.[12] UTLA and CCSA Advocates both invested six-figure sums in the District 4 race. Prior to the primary, campaign finance reports showed CCSA Advocates and charter school supporters like former Los Angeles Mayor Rick Riordan (R) had poured the most money into the race, but CCSA Advocates executive director Gary Borden, however, said that may not be the whole picture.[13]

In February 2017, both Melvoin and Fitzpatrick-Gonez filed complaints against UTLA with the California Fair Political Practices Commission regarding ads that showed the faces of Zimmer and Padilla. At issue was the fact that the ads had been paid for through the union’s issues PAC rather than their election-related PAC. Melvoin said this allowed the union to avoid disclosing how much they had contributed to the race.[13]

UTLA officials said the ads had been approved in August 2016 and were part of a pro-union marketing campaign. They also said that Zimmer and Padilla were featured as union allies, not as candidates, and that they were not the only people featured in the ads.[13] On March 2, 2017, the Fair Political Practices Commission announced that they would open an investigation into the complaints against UTLA, but officials did not announce any findings on the matter before the primary election.[14]

The winners of the general election will face the task of shrinking the district’s $1.46 billion cumulative deficit over the next three years.[15] Current board members approved Superintendent Michelle King’s recommendation that nearly 1,600 administrators be put on notice of their contracts’ possible termination in February 2017.[16]

Candidates

Note: An (i) next to a candidate’s name indicates incumbent status.

Footnotes

  1. Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, “Los Angeles County Election Results: Consolidated Municipal and Special Elections March 7, 2017,” accessed March 8, 2017
  2. LA School Report, “District 4 dominates while first outside money enters school board race, campaign finance reports show,” January 13, 2017
  3. Los Angeles Times, “Former Mayor Riordan puts in $1 million to defeat school board president Zimmer,” January 18, 2017
  4. CCSA Advocates, “CCSA Advocates endorses four candidates for Los Angeles Unified school board,” January 26, 2017
  5. Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, “Los Angeles County Election Results: Consolidated Municipal and Special Elections March 7, 2017,” accessed March 8, 2017
  6. ACT Pasadena, “The Phoenix Online Volume 45, Number 1: ACT Candidate Forum Is Well Attended,” accessed February 8, 2017
  7. The San Gabriel Valley Tribune, “Endorsements: Kenne, Richardson-Bailey and Pomeroy for Pasadena school board,” February 23, 2017
  8. Pasadena Star-News, “Endorsements: Kenne, Richardson-Bailey and Pomeroy for Pasadena school board,” February 23, 2017
  9. Michelle Richardson Bailey For School Board, “Endorsements,” accessed March 2, 2017
  10. Tuscaloosa News, “Three Tuscaloosa school board seats up in runoff election,” March 7, 2017
  11. Los Angeles Times, “Former Mayor Riordan puts in $1 million to defeat school board president Zimmer,” January 18, 2017
  12. Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, “2017 City and LAUSD Elections,” accessed March 6, 2017
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 89.3 KPCC, “LA school board candidate says teachers union skirting campaign finance rules,” February 28, 2017
  14. LA School Report, “UTLA campaign supporting Zimmer now under full investigation; outside spending jumps $1 million in a week to $5.4 million,” March 6, 2017
  15. LA School Report, “LAUSD notifies county and state of $1.46 billion deficit,” December 15, 2016
  16. LA School Report, “LAUSD notifies 1,600 administrators of potential layoffs: Too little, too late or just a mirage?” February 21, 2017