Alex Johnson dominates fundraising in L.A. school board election

Alex Johnson with Diane Watson
Alex Johnson with one of his supporters, retired member of Congress Diane Watson.
(Fred MacFarlane)

A relative newcomer to the city education scene has dominated fundraising and spending in the race for an open seat on the Los Angeles Board of Education.

Through May 17, Alex Johnson, the senior education aide to county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, had spent nearly $300,000 on his campaign to replace Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, who died in December. That total is more than the other six candidates combined and represents more than 70% of expenditures in the contest.

Johnson, 33, also had the most remaining cash on hand, according to figures posted Thursday evening by the L.A. City Ethics Commission, which compiles the data.

Johnson has benefited from the political backing of Ridley-Thomas, who represents much of the board district at the county level. LaMotte’s District 1 stretches across south and southwest L.A. The largest voting block is African American, as are large numbers of students. A majority of the enrollment is Latino.


The maximum contribution was $1,100, but some supporters leveraged that limitation with donations from associated businesses or other entities and family members.

The second leading fundraiser is former school board member Genethia Hudley Hayes, who raised $105,090. Her total includes $37,000 that she loaned to her campaign.

Johnson and Hudley Hayes, 69, have some common supporters, including philanthropists Eli Broad and former ambassador Frank Baxter, who are well known for their support of charter schools and their active roles in advocating for changes in education policy.

The next-highest total is that of retired senior school district administrator George McKenna, who has raised $57,826, including a $10,000 personal loan.


The third leading fundraiser was Omarosa Manigault, a pastor, substitute teacher and former reality TV personality. She reported raising $21,340.

Following her in order were Hattie McFrazier, Sherlett Hendy Newbill and Rachel Johnson. The latter three were endorsed by the teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles. The union is usually a major player in board elections, but not in this primary contest.

McFrazier is a retired teacher and counselor, Hendy Newbill is a high school teacher and local union representative; Johnson is a teacher and Gardena City Council member.

If no candidate wins a majority in the June 3 balloting, the top two finishers will face off in an August special election.

Spending independent of candidates often has been a major factor in school board campaigns. In this election, one outside group has been involved. The California Black Political Action Committee has spent $10,159 on behalf of Alex Johnson. That Washington, D.C.-based group typically supports black conservatives running for office. 

All of the candidates on the ballot are African American. 

Get our Essential California newsletter