Voters don’t go to the polls until Tuesday, but La Cañada Unified school board candidate Andrew Blumenfeld is already ahead in at least one race — fundraising.
The 20-year-old Princeton University student had banked $13,730 in monetary contributions as of Oct. 22, according to the most recent campaign finance disclosure forms filed with the county clerk’s office. He edged out fellow challenger Ellen Multari and incumbent Jeanne Broberg, who raised $12,837 and $11,445 in cash donations, respectively. Challenger Ernest Koeppen was a distant fourth, reporting $4,150 in campaign contributions.
Multari is leading the pack in spending, plowing $7,825 into newspaper ads and campaign literature, according to disclosure forms. She is followed by Broberg with $7,210, Blumenfeld with $6,733, and Koeppen with $4,044 in campaign expenditures.
The four candidates are competing for two seats in the most closely watched La Cañada school board election in recent memory. One of those seats is open as the result of a decision by current board member Cindy Wilcox to not run again.
In a small community like La Cañada Flintridge, fundraising is one measure that can be used to predict the outcome of an election, Blumenfeld said, adding that he finds it encouraging to receive support from so many community members.
“Most importantly to me, it shows that we have been successful in the first and primary goal of this campaign, which was to get the conversation started,” he said.
Most of the contributions received by Blumenfeld, Multari and Broberg came in the form of $100 and $200 checks from La Cañada residents, although both women candidates received $500 each from state Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge).
Koeppen said that he chose not to actively solicit contributions because he felt that community members’ money would be better spent on schools, adding that his campaign was almost entirely self-funded.
“If I run the campaign efficiently, I hope people would think I would run the board as efficiently,” Koeppen said.
Win or lose, the candidates have already been successful by generating buzz about issues such as the school board’s communication with the public and faltering high school math scores, Koeppen said.
“An election — if it does nothing else — raises awareness on points we need to address,” Koeppen said.
An unusual mix of candidates combined with several controversial school-related issues has produced the most highly charged school board election in recent memory. The three challengers have repeatedly criticized the sitting board member for what they have a described as a lack of transparency on major decisions such as the addition of four non-student teacher collaboration days to the academic calendar.
“There is a lot of anger, quite frankly,” said Multari, referring to the buzz the campaign has generated. “I think some of it stems from the belief that the board was non-communicative, and I also think some of it is that the community kind of checked out for a period of time.”
Meanwhile, as the single incumbent, Broberg has defended her colleagues’ performance, noting that the district has avoided layoffs, furlough days and program reductions while holding onto its coveted No. 2 state-wide ranking.
While the campaign trail is a familiar one, there is always something new to learn and people to meet, she said Wednesday.
“No matter how many [people] I know in the community, I always meet new friends,” Broberg said. “It is always families who are impassioned about the schools.”
There are 12,528 La Cañada residents registered to vote in the Nov. 8 election, with 3,791 of those registered to vote by mail, according to the county clerk’s office. Polling places — including the La Cañada Flintridge Country Club and the Foothill Municipal Water District — will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.