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Challengers File for School Board Races

Three Latinos seek to oust David Tokofsky. President Caprice Young will face two foes.

November 10, 2002|Solomon Moore | Times Staff Writer

As the filing period for the local election candidates ended at noon Saturday, the Los Angeles Unified School District race for incumbent member David Tokofsky's seat seemed destined to be a test of Latino resolve.

Three of the candidates in that contest are Latinos, while Tokofsky, a former L.A. Unified teacher and two-term incumbent, is a white man of Jewish heritage who speaks Spanish fluently.

"I think that this is an opportunity for Latino leadership to emerge," said candidate Jose Sigala, aide to Assemblyman Marco Firebaugh (D-Los Angeles).

Privately, some Latino political consultants have said Tokofsky "doesn't fit the profile" of his constituency, which is increasingly Latino. Immigration and a redistricting battle earlier this year made the 5th District, which covers much of East Los Angeles, Silver Lake and Eagle Rock, L.A. Unified's most heavily Latino area. About 56% of registered voters in the district are Latino, according to Tokofsky.

On Saturday another Latino candidate -- schoolteacher and Democratic activist Nellie Rios-Parra -- joined the race. Rios-Parra's husband, Alvin Parra, just dropped his candidacy for City Council District 14 last week to make way for Antonio Villaraigosa's run there.

Maria Lou Calanche, an educator and unsuccessful Los Angeles Community College District candidate, threw her hat into the ring early last week.

In addition to being coveted by Latino politicos, the 5th District has attracted intense interest from former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and billionaire financier Eli Broad.

The Times reported earlier this month comments by Occidental College President Ted Mitchell that the two men had talked to him about his possibly running against Tokofsky. According to sources who heard a presentation Mitchell gave to 13 members of Occidental's board of trustees, Broad had proposed a $10-million donation to the college if Mitchell ran.

Shortly after that meeting, Mitchell said he would not seek the seat. Broad later said the donation and a Mitchell candidacy were not linked.

In any case, the events underscored the attention the two tycoons are giving the 5th District.

Sigala said he has met with Riordan and a Broad employee named Amy Wakeland, who worked on the L.A. Unified redistricting panel.

Rios-Parra said she had a meeting with both men, from whom she had looked forward to gaining some information about the Broad Foundation's work around the country.

"They wanted to share with me their positions on vouchers, charter schools, school reform and accountability," she said.

"They came down hard on me on my views on bilingual education," said Rios-Parra, who supports a limited role for Spanish-language instruction. "I don't think they appreciated that position."

Tokofsky said Saturday that he is confident he will win reelection.

Sigala acknowledged that he and the two other Latino candidates may split the Latino vote, but he said he is counting on winning in a runoff.

School board President Caprice Young's incumbency will also face an unexpected challenge next March from two candidates who filed papers Friday and Saturday.

Jon M. Lauritzen is a former teacher who narrowly lost a race for the 39th Assembly District two years ago.

"We've endorsed him twice for Assembly," said John Perez, president of United Teachers-Los Angeles, the 40,000-member union.

Lauritzen said he would emphasize his experience in the classroom and Young's decision to increase the number of children in some classes to make up for a budget shortfall.

He also criticized Young's close ties to Riordan and Broad, who recruited her and steered donations to her 1999 election campaign and, last year, to a redistricting effort.

John Regis Kuhn, a relative unknown, is also running in the 3rd District.

The longest-serving member on the school board, Julie Korenstein, filed papers Saturday morning to run for the City Council's 12th District.

Korenstein, who is in her 16th year on the board, has been a strong labor advocate and a proponent for San Fernando Valley interests.

She is the only board member who has not received a contribution from Riordan's and Broad's campaign committee, and her seat is expected to be hotly contested when it comes up for reelection in 2005.

Korenstein said in an interview Saturday that she has had her eye on the 12th Council District ever since she lost a 1991 bid by less than 1,000 votes. The seat is being vacated by Hal Bernson because of term limits and promises to provide one of the hardest-fought city races, with a total of nine contenders.

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