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Trustee Tokofsky Reelected

With Korenstein staying after council defeat, a board majority is allied with the teachers union.

May 21, 2003|Cara Mia DiMassa, Duke Helfand and Erika Hayasaki | Times Staff Writers

Los Angeles Board of Education incumbent David Tokofsky was reelected by a large margin Tuesday in a 5th District runoff against challenger Nellie Rios-Parra, a Lennox schools administrator and teacher.

Tokofsky's victory for a third term, along with the defeat of school board trustee Julie Korenstein in a Los Angeles City Council runoff, means that for the first time in four years a majority of the seven-member school board has alliances with the teachers union. Korenstein said she will serve the two years remaining on her school board term.

"This is very solid. I think to have numbers like that means it's going to be across all parts of the district," Tokofsky said amid a throng of supporters at the Tam O' Shanter Inn in Atwater Village.

He added that he hoped the election would unify the school district's many constituencies -- especially district management and union leaders in the coming months of tough contract and budget negotiations .

"If we don't move forward together, the people are going to get increasingly turned off," he said.

Rios-Parra conceded defeat late Tuesday at the Cancun Ole restaurant in East Los Angeles.

"I'm feeling like we really did a good job of putting forth the message that children come first," she said in an interview.

"I knew it was going to be a long fight and an uphill battle," she added. "But it was worth it for the kids. They are my passion."

Tokofsky's 5th District reaches from such northeast Los Angeles communities as Silver Lake and Los Feliz south and east to neighboring cities Huntington Park, Vernon, Bell and South Gate, all of which are part of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

In a climate where teacher contracts are up for renewal and a staggering state budget deficit has triggered teacher layoffs in other school systems, the United Teachers-Los Angeles union pushed hard for Tokofsky's reelection, donating $315,0000 to his campaign. Other labor organizations donated another $185,000.

Rios-Parra had the backing of the Coalition for Kids, a political action group led by financier Eli Broad and former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, which helped to get a reform-minded school board elected four years ago. According to recent campaign filings, the coalition gave $282,000, both in cash and in payment for mailers and services, to Rios-Parra, 36, a director of pre-kindergarten programs at the tiny Lennox School District.

Rios-Parra's loss was another blow to the Coalition for Kids. In the March primary, two of its preferred candidates, school board members Genethia Hudley-Hayes and Caprice Young, lost their reelection bids to union-backed opponents Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte and Jon M. Lauritzen.

The City Council last year redrew the boundaries of the 5th District, turning what was already a Latino-majority district into one in which 57% of registered voters are Latino. In the past, Tokofsky has faced some opposition from political activists who said the district should be represented by a Latino.

In the March primary, Tokofsky was the only non-Latino candidate and led the vote, with nearly 48% of the vote in that election. But because he failed to reach 50%, he was forced into the runoff against Rios-Parra, his closest opponent, who garnered just under 28% of the vote then.

A former teacher who led Marshall High School's academic decathlon team to a national championship in 1987, Tokofsky, 43, presented himself as a knowledgeable board member who has not been afraid to criticize such policies as buying a high-rise in downtown for a new district headquarters.

Rios-Parra, however, asserted that he was out of touch with his constituents and a pawn of the unions. Tokofsky said that she is inexperienced and has lied about his record.

Last week, the Campaign Watch Commission -- an independent group that monitors local elections -- criticized Rios-Parra's mailers as misleading in their characterization, especially in her allegations that Tokofsky has missed many board votes.

Also on Tuesday, a $980-million bond measure to repair and upgrade buildings, grounds and technology centers in the Los Angeles Community College District had a strong lead toward passage.

Proponents of the bond, which needs 55% of the vote to win, said the money would cope with rising enrollments and replace outdated facilities at the district's nine two-year colleges.

But opponents questioned whether the request came too soon after a $1.2-billion facilities bond passed by voters in 2001, saying they wanted to be sure that the earlier bond had been well spent first.

In a runoff for one seat on the community college district's board of trustees, incumbent Mona Field overwhelmingly led businesswoman Joyce Burrell Garcia. Field, a Glendale Community College political science professor, received 47% of votes in the March primary. Garcia finished second in the primary with 24% of the vote.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

*--* Los Angeles City Council District 10 68% Precincts Reporting Votes % Martin Ludlow 8,597 55.08 Deron Williams 7,011 44.92 District 12 84% Precincts Reporting Votes % Julie Korenstein 8,354 38.80 Greig Smith 13,177 61.20

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*--* Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, District 5 98.42% Precincts Reporting Votes % David N. Tokofsky 12,665 63.49 Nellie Rios-Parra 7,284 36.51

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*--* Los Angeles Community College District District 3 88.6% Precincts Reporting Votes % Joyce Burrell Garcia 52,781 35.84 Mona Field 94,494 64.16 Proposition AA $980-million bond issue for building repair and safety Needs 55% of the votes for passage 88.6% Precincts Reporting Votes % Yes 100,177 64.05 No 56,238 35.95

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