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City sets timeline for election to fill L.A. school board seat

City sets timeline for election to fill L.A. school board seat
The L.A. City Council has approved a timetable for candidates aspiring to replace L.A. Unified board member Ref Rodriguez, who resigned in July. The most important date is March 5, when the election will take place. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles City Council has formally approved a March 5 special election to fill a vacancy on the Board of Education. If no candidate wins a majority, a runoff would be held between the top two finishers on May 14.

The action taken Friday was largely a formality because the school board had requested this timetable. The seat opened up when Ref Rodriguez resigned in July, after pleading guilty to political money-laundering charges.

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The first date for potential candidates to pay attention to is Oct. 6. That’s the last day aspiring board members have to begin living within the boundaries of District 5, which includes neighborhoods north of downtown and reaches into the cities of southeast L.A. County. The Los Angeles Unified School District includes areas outside of the city of Los Angeles and much of this territory is part of District 5.

The next dates of note are Nov. 5 to 13, when candidates must file to run. Then, they must gather signatures for petitions in support of their bid for office. These petitions must be filed by Dec. 5.

After that, it would really help to have millions of dollars available — L.A. board elections have become the most expensive in the nation. The two biggest spenders have been supporters of charter schools, who’ve spent the most, and the teachers union.

Neither coalition has publicly backed a candidate, although there are several potential candidates from which to choose.

Two potential candidates confirmed their interest to The Times on Friday. One is former school board member Bennett Kayser, who lost to Rodriguez in 2015. The other is the mayor of Bell, Fidencio Joel Gallardo, who also is an English teacher at South Gate High School. Both Bell and South Gate are in District 5.

Others who have previously expressed interest include public affairs consultant Ana Cubas, former Cerritos Community College Trustee John Paul Drayer, former school board member Jackie Goldberg, district principal Cynthia Gonzalez, neighborhood activist Rocio Rivas, Huntington Park City Councilwoman Graciela Ortiz and Los Angeles Board of Public Works member Heather Repenning.

The winner would serve out the rest of Rodriguez’s term. The next regular election for that seat will take place in 2020.

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