On Education: Glendale school board not quite the political springboard

Glendale Unified school board members are 0-2 in consecutive 43rd Assembly District races.

Local businessman and Republican candidate Greg Krikorian last week resumed his seat on the dais at district headquarters after conceding to Democratic incumbent Mike Gatto.

“I really want to thank everyone [who was there] along the way,” Krikorian said at a board meeting the day after the election. “I met so many new voters, new friends.”

Perhaps he will find Nayiri Nahabedian an empathetic colleague. The current school board vice president waged her own unsuccessful, and sometimes contentious, campaign for the seat in 2010.

Krikorian finished with 40% of the vote, 25,036 ballots behind Gatto’s final count of 75,372. By some measures it was a respectable showing against a well-established, better-funded candidate.

Still, it is clear that Glendale Unified is no political launching pad. At least one other board member has pursued state office. In 1996, Sharon Beauchamp, who had previously served 16 years on the school board, ran to replace Newton Russell to represent the 21st Senate District. She finished fourth in the Republican primary. (Adam Schiff went on to win the general election.)

Meanwhile, the La Cañada Flintridge City Council has produced state Sen. Carol Liu and state Assemblyman Anthony Portantino. And the Burbank Unified school board helped launch the career of Paul Krekorian, who climbed from his district-level position to the state Assembly and then on to his current job on the Los Angeles City Council — all in less than a decade.

What’s more, our school board members don’t seem to wear 43rd Assembly District races particularly well.

Unseating an incumbent is always tough. But if Krikorian had set himself above the campaign fray and projected the attributes that have served him so well during 12 years in elected office he might have better positioned himself for a competitive rematch in 2014.

I am talking about the Krikorian who can claim containing the district’s once-skyrocketing energy costs as a signature accomplishment. I am talking about the Krikorian who dresses in drag for the “Father’s Follies” program at Verdugo Woodlands Elementary School.

Instead, the school board member spent months exchanging accusations with the Gatto camp about alleged misleading campaign literature, and who was snooping into whose personal affairs.

The day before the election, Krikorian made a short appearance on nationally syndicated “The John & Ken Show,” during which the namesake hosts, true to their provocative style, referred to Gatto as “a big throbbing wiener.” The segment was promoted on Krikorian’s Twitter feed.

Make no mistake, Gatto was an equal participant. He lobbed shots at his opponent’s credibility like Kobe Bryant in an NBA final.

All of this might seem rather innocent in comparison to other hotly contested races. Heck, former colleagues Brad Sherman and Howard Berman, fighting over the redrawn 30th Congressional District, nearly came to blows during a candidate forum at Pierce College in early October.

Can we expect Gatto vs. Glendale Unified school board Member, Round 3, in 2014? Perhaps — don’t be surprised if Krikorian throws his name in the ring again.

I am going to plant the seed early and suggest that board member Mary Boger get in on the action. Who wouldn’t enjoy watching Gatto try to campaign against Glendale’s fairy godmother? Not even David Axelrod would risk his mustache on that one.

It would be great to see Krikorian leverage for Glendale Unified some of the grass-roots goodwill he built in recent months. Running for Assembly means becoming an expert on California government, which will serve him well as the school board continues to address its financial crisis.

And please, going forward, let’s leave all that throbbing to professionals of another ilk.

MEGAN O'NEIL is a former education reporter for Times Community News and current graduate student at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She may be reached at megan.oneil.06@gmail.com.

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