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Voters decide LA Council seats, school board, police discipline measure

FILE PHOTO: A poster designating a polling station at a school in East Los Angeles in November 2000.
FILE PHOTO: A poster designating a polling station at a school in East Los Angeles in November 2000.
HECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images

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In Tuesday's election that stirred controversy but few voters, a Los Angeles City Council incumbent held on to his seat, pro-charter forces prevailed in school board races and a measure will allow an all-civilian panel to review police discipline cases.

City election officials continue to count ballots in the L.A runoff, but results of the low turnout election are already taking shape. A major shift appears underway on the Los Angeles Unified school board, which looks set to shift to a majority backed by charter school advocates. The school board races broke records for outside spending with more than $14 million funneled in ahead of the election.

"The amounts of money are obscene when you think about the needs of our schools and our kids," said Mona Field, emeritus professor of political science from Glendale Community College. "That’s just how politics works. Millions are spent running the election by government and millions are spent by advocacy groups to support or oppose candidates or issues.”

As of early Wednesday morning, unofficial election results show:

• Gil Cedillo, the city councilman representing District 1, fended off an aggressive campaign by bicycle activist Joe Bray-Ali to win a second term. Bray-Ali's effort fell apart in the final weeks of the campaign after he admitted to posting on racist forums, owing taxes and infidelity in his marriage. Based on ballots counted so far, Cedillo captured 70.85 percent of the vote to Bray-Ali's 29.14 percent.

• Monica Rodriguez won the City Council District 7 seat over her opponent, Karo Torossian. The seat became vacant with last year's resignation of Felipe Fuentes, who left to become a lobbyist. The race was relatively subdued compared to the contentious District 1 runoff, but differences emerged between the two candidates over issues like high speed rail and homelessness. Rodriguez will become only the second female on the 15-member council. The unofficial count shows Rodriguez winning with 52.97 percent of the district votes. Torossian trailed with 47.02 percent.

• L.A. Unified school board candidates Nick Melvoin and Kelly Gonez won their competitive races. Both received heavy support from interests supporting charter school expansion. Outside spending in the elections exceeded $14 million. Pro-charter members now hold a majority on the seven-member board. Melvoin ousted board president Steve Zimmer while Gonez prevailed over opponent Imelda Padilla. Labor groups, including the union representing public school teachers, backed Zimmer and Padilla. 

• Measure C drew broad support. The amendment to the City Charter gives police officers the choice of a panel of civilians when their discipline cases are reviewed.  Some 57 percent of the voters approved of the measure versus 43 percent who did not.

Early turnout rates, as expected, proved dismal at 8.46 percent of registered voters. The unofficial results also show 175,683 ballots had been counted in the preliminary rounds. The L.A. City Clerk's office estimates about 40,000 votes remain to be counted, according to Sr. Program Manager Sandra Mendoza. The majority of the ballots that remain to be counted are from voters who vote by mail.

The next update on the vote count is scheduled for Friday. 

As with the primary election, city voters were not moved to show up in great numbers in odd-numbered years and with relatively few items on the ballot.

Starting in 2020, the city will schedule its elections in June and November of even-numbered years. To align the elections, this year's winners of council and school board seats will serve 5 1/2 years as compared to the usual four years.

This story has been updated.