The La Cañada Unified school board race looks to be headed for a recount, with the second and third place candidates separated by a dozen votes.
Ellen Multari and three-term incumbent Jeanne Broberg lead the race with 31% and 27% of the vote, respectively, according to unofficial results posted Wednesday morning by the Los Angeles County clerk’s office. Four candidates vied for two seats.
But Andrew “AJ” Blumenfeld finished third by just 12 votes. The 20-year-old Princeton University student said at midnight Wednesday that if the outcome did not automatically prompt county officials to conduct a recount, he would make a formal request that they do so.
“Our priority is to make sure that every vote is accounted for,” Blumenfeld said. “They run [the ballots] through machines; we just want to make sure it is all right.”
Ernest Koeppen was running a distant fourth, with 14 % of the vote. Board member Cindy Wilcox announced in March that she would not to seek reelection, guaranteeing at least one new face on the board.
The Los Angeles County clerk’s office began posting mail-in ballot results shortly after the polls closed 8 p.m. Tuesday. Nearly one third of the 12,535 La Cañadans eligible to vote in the election are registered to do so by mail.
“I think that there is a lot that can happen,” said Multari, who spent election night at home with her family. “I think that this has been a very emotional campaign. It has had lots of ups and downs, and lots of turn arounds, and I don’t think anybody feels our of the running, or safe and secure.”
Multari said that if the results stand her first priority will be to improve communication between the district and the community.
“That is a very quick and easy fix,” Multari said. “It just requires some diligence and rolling up of the sleeves…The kind of communication that has gone on during the campaign needs to go on year round.”
Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) and La Cañada Councilwoman Laura Olhasso were among those gathereded in support of Broberg at a private residence near LCUSD headquarters. Broberg said that if she is reelected she wants to focus on helping Supt. Wendy Sinnette in her first year on the job and dealing with ongoing budget issues.
“We will see what happens Dec. 15 from the governor, whether we have cuts or not to this year’s budget,” Broberg said. “While we try to think money isn’t primary, it is…so that will be first and foremost.”
The school board race has garnered considerable public interest, made clear by numerous campaign signs and a high volume of letters in local news outlets. The momentum was driven in part by several controversial issues, including a decision by the board to add four non-student professional development days to the academic calendar.
Other hot-button campaign issues included teacher evaluations, declining enrollment, out-of-district-permit students, languishing high school math scores and board transparency.
The contrast of candidates also fueled interest in the race, district watchdogs said.
“I think each of the candidates really brought strengths to the election,” said former school board member and education policy expert Ron Dietel. “It does cost money for the district to pay for an election, but I think it is money well spent overall.”