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L.A. Unified board appears unlikely to change much

Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, Tamar Galatzan and Richard Vladovic lead early. The open seat may see a runoff.

March 09, 2011|By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

Three Los Angeles Board of Education incumbents were cruising to victory Tuesday in early returns, but a runoff election appeared likely in the race for the one open seat.

In District 1, covering south and southwest L.A., Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte was well ahead of challenger Eric Lee. In District 3, in the west San Fernando Valley, Tamar Galatzan was besting Louis Pugliese. And in District 7, stretching across the South Bay and South Los Angeles, Richard Vladovic surged far in front of Roye Love.

In the open seat, District 5, Luis Sanchez was in first place, followed by Bennett Kayser.

Third-place finisher John Fernandez was doing well enough to help force a runoff but didn't appear likely to be in it.

A runoff would continue the fight over a post that could strengthen the influence of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on the school board or nudge it more toward the competing views of the teachers union.

The candidates were seeking four-year terms on the board of the nation's second-largest school system.

Galatzan and Vladovic have been part of a majority bloc on the seven-member body allied with the mayor. They have helped push through policies that limited seniority protections for teachers and promoted the growth of charter schools while at the same time approving massive budget cuts and layoffs.

The teachers union opposed a number of these initiatives, but union ally LaMotte had little success stopping them.

This election had been expected to be a face-off for control of the board majority between the mayor and United Teachers Los Angeles.

But the anticipated showdown materialized in only District 5.

There, the presumed frontrunner was Sanchez. He had worked as a political advisor to help elect school board president Monica Garcia and then Yolie Flores in adjacent districts. After Garcia became board president, Sanchez became her chief of staff.

Sanchez, 36, raised far more money than any other candidate, about $165,000, according to the most recent reports from the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.

About four times as much has come from political action committees running independent campaigns in support of Sanchez.

Most of that money is from a committee supporting the mayor's favored candidates.

The union backed 64-year-old Kayser, a retired teacher.

UTLA launched vigorous campaigns for Kayser (more than $237,000) and against Sanchez (nearly $330,000).

For Denise Allen, a teacher at Eagle Rock Elementary, who cast a ballot Tuesday afternoon at her Eagle Rock polling place, the choice was easy.

"I just wanted somebody I feel would represent schoolteachers," said Allen. "I don't care for Villaraigosa, so I don't want to go for somebody he backed."

Steven Montoya, a systems analyst with the city, also is no fan of the mayor, but he's sold on Sanchez.

He especially liked Sanchez's work for children as a recreation and parks commissioner, an element highlighted in Sanchez's campaign materials.

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