Heather Repenning edged into second place Friday in the contest for a pivotal seat on the Los Angeles Board of Education. Second place matters because the top two finishers will be on the ballot in a May 14 runoff. Jackie Goldberg has already nailed down one spot by finishing far ahead of the other candidates.
Votes are still being tallied, although most of the outstanding ballots have now been counted, according to L.A. County election officials.
Repenning, who resigned recently as a public works commissioner to run for office, now has 13.17%, or 4,144 votes. Graciela Ortiz is in third place with 12.75%, or 4,011 votes — 133 behind Repenning. The election night tally Tuesday had Ortiz, a school counselor and a Huntington Park city councilwoman, ahead by 53 votes.
If Repenning makes the runoff, that will set up a head-to-head battle between the two largest unions in the nation’s second-largest school system, Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union and United Teachers Los Angeles.
Local 99 represents most of the district’s non-teaching employees — about 30,000 workers including bus drivers, cafeteria workers, building and grounds workers, teaching assistants and unarmed campus security aides. The union spent close to $1 million on behalf of Repenning, who received more outside support than any other candidate.
United Teachers Los Angeles represents about 30,000 teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians. It spent more than $660,000 on behalf of Goldberg. UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl on Thursday criticized Local 99 for accepting a $100,000 donation from billionaire Eli Broad for its pro-Repenning campaign.
Caputo-Pearl characterized Broad as a “privatizer and union buster.”
Broad has supported the rapid expansion of privately operated, publicly funded charter schools, most of which are non-union. He declined to discuss the donation.
Local 99 Executive Director Max Arias said the contribution, which was made on election day, had nothing to do with his union’s original decision to support Repenning. Nor did it signify that Local 99 is in agreement with all of Broad’s views on education. It was consistent, he said, with Local 99’s willingness to partner with civic and philanthropic leaders when they have a shared vision of how to improve public education.
Repenning has characterized herself as a centrist — without close ties either to charter school supporters or the teachers union.