Ten candidates, including five parents who filed to enter the LAUSD Board District 5 race, remain in the running after several candidates decided to bow out of the crowded field.
Those who have qualified for the ballot include parent and educator Allison Bajracharya, professor and former City Council staffer Ana Cubas, parent and Vice President of the Department of Public Works Heather Repenning, Professor Salvador “Chamba” Sanchez, counselor and Huntington Park Councilmember Graciela Ortiz, LAUSD pilot school principal and parent Cynthia Gonzalez, Los Angeles County Arts Commissioner David Valdez, parent and Bell Councilmember Nestor Enrique Valencia, former school board member and state lawmaker Jackie Goldberg, and parent and education researcher Rocio Rivas.
Parent and activist Justine Gonzalez, who would have been the first transgender candidate to ever run for office in Los Angeles, told Speak UP she withdrew from the race because pressure on her family time and finances was too great. A week later, she endorsed Bajracharya.
“I believe [Allison Bajracharya] has a unique and much needed perspective, as a district parent and educator, that positions her as the best candidate to put students and families first and advocate for the quality education we deserve,” said Justine Gonzalez, who served as President of the Los Angeles Human Relations Commission and an aide to Mayors Antonio Villaraigosa and Eric Garcetti. “She understands the urgency of fighting for that education now,"
Eduardo Cisneros, who had qualified, dropped out after the labor union SEIU, his former employer, backed another candidate, parent Repenning, who is also supported by Garcetti. Candidates Scott Cody, Bennett Kayser, Fidenco Joel Gallardo, Erika Alvarez and James C. O’Gabhann III all have dropped out of the race, as well.
Candidates are also in the process of lining up key endorsements. Speak UP is currently meeting with and interviewing candidates, all of whom were sent questionnaires. Those who chose to fill out Speak UP’s candidate questionnaire were invited to attend Speak UP’s candidate forum. Candidates Repenning, Bajracharya, Cubas, Cynthia Gonzalez and David Valdez all attended and debated the issues. Speak UP will conclude this process later this month, and if we decide to endorse one or more candidates, we will announce our decision in January.
The major labor unions are expected to split their endorsements. While SEIU Local 99, which represents LAUSD bus drivers, special education assistants and cafeteria workers, backed Repenning, United Teachers Los Angeles endorsed Goldberg, whom they recently attempt to get appointed to the position by the Board.
Repenning’s “experience as an LAUSD parent, public servant, and labor organizer places her in a unique position to work creatively with our communities to improve our schools,” said SEIU Local 99 Executive Director Max Arias in a statement. “As parents of LAUSD students and residents of the communities where we work, we appreciate that Heather understands that learning does not just happen in the classroom. As a community advocate, she knows that issues of hunger, homelessness, immigration, and poverty have a direct impact on the success of our children. Her leadership in raising Los Angeles’ minimum wage demonstrates her commitment to seeking real solutions to challenges facing our communities.”
Public charter school parents, students and leaders are also meeting and considering candidates, but the California Charter Schools Association has not announced an endorsement.
*This story is being updated as the candidates who submitted signatures qualify for the ballot and as candidates drop out of the race.