8 submit papers for L.A. school board race as filing opens

Times Staff Writer

Next year’s Los Angeles school board elections already are shaping up as competitive and expensive races -- with results that could affect Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s intervention in local school reforms.

Eight candidates filed forms Monday signifying their intent to run, including two incumbents. Four of the seven Board of Education seats are up for grabs. The two major kingmakers -- the mayor and the teachers union -- have not endorsed anyone, although the mayor’s office remains leery of incumbents who have opposed Villaraigosa’s effort to obtain substantial authority over the Los Angeles Unified School District. Both the mayor’s allies and the teachers union are likely to pour large amounts of money into the contests.

Three-term incumbent David Tokofsky was among the loudest critics of Villaraigosa’s plans. Tokofsky, an Anglo, represents Latino-majority District 5, which stretches from Eagle Rock to the cities of Southeast Los Angeles County. He has survived one election day after another, despite perceptions that he is perpetually at risk.


Once again, he will face at least one notable Latino challenger. Luis Sanchez, 32, runs an Eastside nonprofit, InnerCity Struggle. Sanchez has been a staunch supporter of the mayor’s agenda on schools. He recently led a discussion group at an education retreat put together by the mayor’s office, but said he had received no commitment of support.

The other incumbent who filed Monday was Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, who represents District 1, which takes in a wide swath of South Los Angeles. It is a seat held traditionally by an African American.

No candidate filed to challenge LaMotte, but a strong contender for the seat probably will be a charter school operator who said Monday that he was considering a run. Johnathan Williams, 39, co-founded the Accelerated Charter School in South Los Angeles, where he hosted Villaraigosa’s State of the City address. Williams, a member of the appointed state Board of Education, is a former L.A. teachers union chapter chairman, but his 12-year-old school is not unionized.

Incumbent Jon Lauritzen didn’t file Monday, but his chief of staff confirmed that Lauritzen, who has battled health problems, is determined to run and is feeling up to the job. He already has three challengers for his District 3 seat in the West San Fernando Valley: Louis Pugliese, a 56-year-old Cal State Northridge lecturer who also taught for years in L.A. Unified; Debra L. Clark, a 53-year-old mother of two autistic boys who runs a small nonprofit to help parents of children with special needs; and Tamar Galatzan, 37, a neighborhood prosecutor for the city attorney’s office.

Galatzan has especially good ties to the business community through husband Brendan Huffman, the president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn.

Incumbent Mike Lansing, whose District 7 stretches from Watts to the Harbor area, is not running for reelection. Two aspirants filed Monday to succeed him: Joey Mandingo White, 30, a mortgage consultant and Navy veteran with four children; and Neal B. Kleiner, 60, the former principal of John Muir Middle School.


Kleiner took part in a recent union rally on behalf of a chapter chairman who had been transferred against his will to another school. In other recent board races, a close union affinity could have cost Kleiner support from the business community in alliance with the mayor. But Villaraigosa has so far maintained strong ties with United Teachers Los Angeles.

Filing also opened Monday for seven seats on the Los Angeles City Council. Eight candidates filed for six of those seats Monday.

Candidates have until Saturday to file declarations of intention to run and until Dec. 6 to turn in nominating petitions. All the even-numbered council district seats are up in the March 2007 municipal elections.