The lineup for this spring’s race for three seats on the Los Angeles Unified School Board was all but set on Wednesday, with 15 candidates filing to put their names on the March 7 primary ballot.
The race will pit at least two political heavyweights — teachers unions and charter school advocates — against each other, both in individual races and in a broader debate over the future of the nation's second-largest school district.
Even at this early stage, this year's candidates have raised nearly $400,000 in contributions — driven largely by two candidates allied with charter school interests: incumbent Mónica García and challenger Nick Melvoin.
If recent history is any indication, these early contributions will likely be joined by millions of dollars in expenditures by outside political action groups on advertising or consultants. In regular L.A. Unified elections since 2011, these "independent expenditures" have far surpassed contributions to individual candidates' campaigns.
Still, this year's candidates have banked almost twice as much in campaign contributions as they had by this stage of the race four years ago, when these three seats were last up for grabs.
As of Sept. 30, the most recent campaign finance reporting deadline, García had raised more than $132,000. García will face a challenge from Roosevelt High School teacher Lisa Alva in her bid to retain her seat in District Two, which spans much of central and east L.A.
Activist Carl Petersen, attorney Miho Murai and school council boardmember Manny Aldana also filed to add their names to the list of candidates in District Two.
Melvoin hopes to oust incumbent board president Steve Zimmer from his seat, which covers Hollywood and much of the westside, and has already raised more than $161,000.
Zimmer has only reported around $30,000 in contributions thus far, though he is likely to enjoy teachers union support in the race. But Melvoin isn't Zimmer's only challenger in District Four: Allison Holdorff Polhill, who's president of Palisades Charter High School's board, and police specialist Greg Martayan have also filed.
Incumbent Mónica Ratliff plans to run for city council, leaving a wide-open race for her L.A. Unified board seat in the northeast San Fernando Valley. Six candidates have filed to run to replace her and represent District Six:
- Former State Assembly member Patty Lopez
- Businessman Araz Parseghian
- Imelda Padilla, formerly of the labor-allied Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy
- Charter school teacher Kelly Gonez
- Education advocate Gwendolyn Posey
- Animal rights educator Jose Sandoval
Candidates had until 5 p.m. Wednesday to formally submit the necessary petition signatures and filing fees to the L.A. City Clerk's office.
The most recent report from the City Clerk did not indicate engineering technologist William Charles McMahon and advocate Juanita Arevalo either paid filing fees or submitted petitions to be added to the District Six race, but it also does not indicate they had formally withdrawn.
The clerk now has 10 days to certify a final slate of candidates.