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Charter SchoolsFor ParentsLAUSD

Charter-backed candidates win L.A. Unified board races, claim first majority

Nick Melvoin at election night party. (Brian Vander Brug/Los Angeles Times)
Nick Melvoin at election night party. (Brian Vander Brug/Los Angeles Times)

Candidates backed by charter school supporters have won their first-ever majority on the Los Angeles Board of Education in elections held Tuesday.

In District 4, which stretches from the Westside to the west San Fernando Valley, challenger Nick Melvoin defeated school board President Steve Zimmer, who was supported by public service employee unions. 

Melvoin received 30,696 votes, 57.4%. Zimmer received 22,766 votes, 42.6%

In this race, the verdict was virtually sealed when election officials posted the vote-by-mail totals shortly after the polls closed. At that point, Melvoin had 60.2% of these early votes. Citywide, mail-in ballots made up more than 60% of the vote. 

It was obvious to Zimmer that he was headed to a loss even before the release of results for those who voted on election day. He quickly conceded, but declined to telephone or take a call from Melvoin, an attorney who has worked for pro-charter groups. The campaign had been too harsh for Zimmer to put aside differences so soon. 

Zimmer had finished first in the March primary, well ahead of Melvoin, who placed second among the field of four. But Zimmer could not win over voters among the slim majority that kept him from winning outright in Round 1.

It didn't help that his reputation and L.A. Unified's was savaged through the record spending of a negative campaign by charter school advocates.

Kelly Gonez with supporters on election night in San Fernando. (Patrick T. Fallon/ For The Los Angeles Times)
Kelly Gonez with supporters on election night in San Fernando. (Patrick T. Fallon/ For The Los Angeles Times)

In District 6, in the east San Fernando Valley, Kelly Gonez, a teacher at a charter school, collected more votes than Imelda Padilla, a community activist and labor organizer.

The vote was close but the gap is almost certainly large enough to withstand the addition of provisional ballots, which are collected but not counted on election day.

Gonez received 13,079 votes, 51.5%. Padilla received 12,331 votes, 48.5%.

Gonez had finished first in the primary in a field of six candidates. Both finalists picked up votes, but Padilla could not close the gap.

The other Board of Education members who are considered pro-charter are Ref Rodriguez and Monica Garcia. The new members will take office in July.

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