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Runoff Looms in Narrowing L.A. Unified Board Race

Incumbent Tokofsky remains short of a simple majority, giving challenger Rios-Parra hope for a May contest.

March 07, 2003|David Pierson | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Board of Education incumbent David Tokofsky on Thursday remained several hundred votes short of an outright victory in his Eastside district, and the candidate said he is preparing for a runoff election on May 20.

Election officials said Thursday that votes from Maywood and Huntington Park, which are part of the Los Angeles Unified School District, were added Thursday and chipped away at Tokofsky's slim majority. By Thursday night, Tokofsky had 47.96% of the vote, said Renee McDade, principal clerk at the city's Election Division. He needs more than 50% of the vote to win outright.

A number of regular, absentee and provisional ballots remain uncounted, McDade said. She could not estimate how many still have to be counted, however, and said a final tally may not be done until next week.

Tokofsky estimated that several hundred votes remain uncounted in his 5th District. "I'm hoping for a miracle," he said, but added he expected a runoff.

The development revived the hopes of Nellie Rios-Parra, a Lennox schools administrator and teacher who placed second in Tuesday's four-way contest for the seat, which stretches from Los Feliz and Eagle Rock to Bell and Bell Gardens.

Tokofsky, a two-term board member, will spend coming weeks fund-raising and recruiting volunteers. He hopes to receive more support than the $41,000 the United Teachers of Los Angeles provided him in the primary. The union gave two other candidates it endorsed a total of $1.4 million.

John Perez, president of the union, said the group will give Tokofsky "as much as we can" for a runoff. "We are committed to seeing him reelected."

Rios-Parra said she was cautious about the voting results. Nevertheless, she said she will prepare for more campaigning.

"There's work ahead of us," Rios-Parra said. "I think we'll have to be more aggressive with our field operations."

The Coalition for Kids, the political action group financed by former Mayor Richard Riordan and billionaire Eli Broad, helped Rios-Parra in the primary and is prepared to offer her aid in a runoff. "We'll do what's necessary," coalition official Amy Wakeland said.

Tokofsky's seat is important to any future majority of the seven-member board. Until Tuesday, a majority of members had been elected during the last four years with the coalition's help.

On Tuesday, two coalition-backed incumbents, Caprice Young and Genethia Hudley-Hayes, were defeated by a pair of candidates, Jon Lauritzen and Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, who were supported by the union. Incumbent Julie Korenstein, who was not up for reelection, is also a union ally. Korenstein would leave the school board if she wins a May runoff for a City Council seat; a special schools election would be held later to replace her.

Meanwhile, a runoff for a Los Angeles Community College District seat means that voters in May will decide on a $980-million bond to upgrade facilities at the district's nine colleges.

While three incumbents won majorities Tuesday, incumbent Mona Field will face businesswoman Joyce Burrell Garcia in a runoff.

Without that runoff on the ballot, the district would have postponed the Proposition AA bond until another unspecified election, officials said.

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Times staff writers Solomon Moore and Denise M. Bonilla contributed to this report.

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