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School board races earn B for big bucks


first_imgMayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the powerful Los Angeles Unified teachers union have spent close to $1.9 million in the past month battling for control of the district’s board, according to campaign finance reports filed Friday. In the mayor’s campaign to replace two union-backed incumbents with his allies in next month’s election, Villaraigosa’s Partnership for Better Schools contributed about $975,000 since late January, filings show. In the same period, United Teachers Los Angeles kept pace by spending $900,000 to support its two candidates, incumbents Jon Lauritzen and Marguerite LaMotte. The hefty contributions have set the stage for a crushing final days before the March 6 election. Both sides are expected to pull out all the stops and pour even more funds into the matchups as Villaraigosa seeks district influence while his legislative effort to take partial control languishes in court. And his committee still has $900,000 in cash on hand to spend on the three candidates the mayor supports – Tamar Galatzan, Yolie Flores Aguilar and Richard Vladovic – with last-minute television ads, mailers and automated phone calls. “Who’s going to have control of the school board is at stake here,” said Raphael Sonenshein, political science professor at California State University, Fullerton. If Villaraigosa wins either the San Fernando Valley seat or the South Los Angeles seat, it is widely believed he will have majority sway on the board. Still, because of his close ties to the union, the battle for board seats is likely to be restrained. “This is a three-sided battle – the union has ties to the school board and to the mayor,” Sonenshein said. “In light of that, the union doesn’t have an interest in getting mortally at war with either one.” While contributions for candidates backed by the mayor and the union generally mirrored expectations, candidate Johnathan Williams showed surprisingly deep pockets. Williams, who is not backed by either the mayor or the union, collected $590,500 from individuals and groups nationwide who support public-school reform. Contribution flow Among the contributions to him was $100,000 from Reed Hastings, chief executive of Netflix; $25,000 from William Cronk III, former president of Dreyer’s Ice Cream; $15,000 from billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad; $50,000 from Gregory B. Penner, who served as a senior vice president of Wal-Mart; and $80,000 from former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan. Williams, a leader in the charter-school community, started the first independent charter school in Los Angeles, Accelerated Charter School. In 2001, it was named the best elementary school in the nation by Time magazine. The implications of the type of financial support Williams has garnered nationally are noteworthy, Sonenshein said. “I think the charter-school movement has always been a metaphor for the reform of the public-school system,” he said. “But that’s become a piece of the reform movement, more so than before.” Williams’ success in fundraising reflects a greater issue at stake in the race, he said. “It’s going to be a referendum on change at the school district,” Sonenshein said. “They’ll be very aggressive, but underlying it all is a legitimate political debate – it doesn’t have as much to do with personalities than the issue of governing schools.” Campaign finance disclosures also revealed in one of the most hotly contested races – Lauritzen’s Valley seat – that challenger Galatzan received about $877,500 in the Jan. 21-Feb. 23 period. Lauritzen took in $485,450. About $780,000 of Galatzan’s in-kind and cash contributions came from the mayor’s Partnership for Better Schools. Meanwhile, $450,000 of Lauritzen’s funds came from the UTLA. But while Galatzan spent about $611,000 – the bulk of it on television or cable airtime – Lauritzen spent about $195,000, mostly on campaign literature. Another candidate for board seat 3, Louis Pugliese, received $6,880. Campaign filings In the second-most-heated race, District 1 incumbent La- Motte – another union-backed candidate – received $524,100, $450,000 from the UTLA. The third candidate, Gloria Zuurveen, received $1,004. In South Gate’s District 7, Vladovic, who has been endorsed by the mayor, received about $142,250 – helped by a $10,000 contribution from Riordan and $100,000 from the mayor’s committee. Candidate Neal Kleiner received $10,475. Villaraigosa-backed Flores Aguilar, who’s running for the District 5 seat being vacated by David Tokofsky, received $185,000 in contributions in the period, $95,000 from the mayor’s committee. Challenger Bennett Kayser raised $21,453. The filings showed the mayor’s committee has spent about $1 million in cash and in-kind contributions so far on its campaigns and has about $900,000 in cash on hand to spend in the final week before the March 6 election. Campaign finance documents also showed that Villaraigosa’s committee has received about $1.6 million in contributions from entertainment executives, attorneys and developers. Filings show contributions of $500,000 from Jerry Perenchio, owner of Chartwell Partners; $100,000 from the Service Employees International Union, currently at odds with the UTLA; and $25,000 from the Anschutz Entertainment Group, which is behind Staples Center and the downtown l.a.live development. Another $25,000 was contributed by investor Gary Winnick, and Jeffrey Katzenberg, chief executive of DreamWorks SKG, also gave $25,000. naush.boghossian@dailynews.com (818) 713-3722160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. 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