The city's powerful teachers union distanced itself from embattled school board candidate Christopher Arellano this week, when an influential committee voted to suspend support for him and recommended that the union withdraw its endorsement.
United Teachers Los Angeles' political action committee voted 27 to 3 Wednesday night to recommend to the union's 300-member house of representatives that it pull its support for Arellano, said union President A.J. Duffy. Pending that decision, Duffy said, the committee has halted any further contributions and campaign activities, such as phone banks and precinct walks, for Arellano.
In Tuesday's special election for an open seat on the seven-member Los Angeles Unified School District board, Arellano, 33, earned enough votes to narrowly force a June runoff against front-runner Monica Garcia.
The union committee's vote is the latest, and most serious, blow to Arellano since his admission that he lied about completing a graduate degree from USC and reports surfaced that he had twice been convicted of shoplifting during the 1990s.
Loss of the union's backing would probably cripple Arellano's campaign. He has relied almost entirely on the union to fund his war chest with $200,000 in contributions, as well as the ground campaign that it launched on his behalf.
Even the temporary loss of the union's money and resources is bound to hamper Arellano as he tries to gain ground on Garcia.
Under normal circumstances, Duffy said, "We would be going full-bore to get [Arellano] elected."
A campaign consultant for Arellano declined to comment, and Arellano could not be reached.
The revelations about Arellano's missteps have led the Los Angeles County Democratic Party to suspend its support and Sheriff Lee Baca to call on Arellano to drop out of the race.
Eric Bauman, chairman of the county Democratic Central Committee, said he was aware that party members were pressuring Arellano to withdraw.
It is unclear what would happen if Arellano tried to drop out. City Clerk Frank Martinez said the City Charter calls for the third-place finisher to be put on the runoff ballot in the event of "the death, resignation or other disqualification" of a candidate. City attorneys, he said, were looking into whether the clause would apply to a candidate's withdrawal. Enrique Gasca placed third in Tuesday's election.
Duffy declined to comment on whether union officials were leaning on Arellano to drop out but said anger among rank-and-file members had grown in recent days.
"There has been a lot of feedback from all over the union expressing disfavor with our continued endorsement of Christopher," he said.
Only the union's house of representatives can decide whether to cut ties with Arellano. Its next scheduled meeting is March 29, although Duffy said union officials were considering an emergency meeting.