Los Angeles teachers' union president Warren Fletcher said he will no longer actively campaign for reelection, clearing the path for challenger Alex Caputo-Pearl to become the next leader of United Teachers Los Angeles.
In the first round of voting in March, Caputo-Pearl received 48% of the votes and Fletcher 21%. The runoff election takes place this month with ballots set to be counted April 29.
In an interview Sunday, Fletcher said he has not formally suspended his campaign, and that he would serve again if he won. But the one-term incumbent emphasized that he has accepted the near inevitable.
He implied as much in a letter distributed last Wednesday at union area meetings.
"The results of the first round of the UTLA election were fairly unambiguous," Fletcher wrote in the letter. "The voting membership has decisively signaled the desire for a change in direction. To assert otherwise would be to deny an obvious reality."
Fletcher said he made a point of not beseeching union members to vote for him. Instead he called for unity and activism.
"Small voter participation numbers empower the enemies of Public Education," Fletcher wrote. "Low voter numbers allow them to continue to spread the lie that teachers and Health and Human Services professionals don't want union representation, and that we don't care if our basic due process protections are taken away."
In the first round, fewer than one in four teachers cast ballots, but that was a higher percentage than in the previous election.
In standing down from the campaign, Fletcher said he would not send mailers to some 33,000 member households. Three years ago he used direct mail effectively when he was one of two challengers in a runoff. Fletcher also used direct mail in the first round this year, at a cost of about $12,500.
Ten candidates had vied for the office of president, seeking to lead a teacher corps that is substantially dispirited and divided, with common grievances, but no clear consensus on how to move forward.
Fletcher said he was advised that he could win only with an unrelentingly negative campaign, which he is unwilling to do.
"Only a fool fights in a burning house," Fletcher said Sunday. "This is not the time to be having an internal fight, because of the attacks UTLA is under and that our profession is under."
Fletcher, 55, was seeking a second and final term for a three-year position that pays $101,000 annually.
Fletcher also said that it made no sense simply to withdraw from the race because a president can take office only after winning a majority of votes. So if he dropped out, the election still would proceed, pitting Caputo-Pearl against third-place finisher Gregg Solkovits.
Caputo-Pearl, 43, is a high school social studies teacher. He organized a slate of candidates that swept the union's other citywide offices.