Graciela Ortiz Appears Headed For a Runoff With Jackie Goldberg, Setting Up a Battle Over Generations, Geography And Race

Graciela Ortiz Appears Headed For a Runoff With Jackie Goldberg, Setting Up a Battle Over Generations, Geography And Race

Boosted in part by Speak UP’s efforts to turn out the vote in the primarily Latino Southeast section of LAUSD’s Board District 5, Huntington Park Councilmember and school counselor Graciela Ortiz appears to be headed for a runoff against veteran politician Jackie Goldberg, who last served on the school board in the ‘80s and early ‘90s.

Goldberg, 74, who was backed by United Teachers Los Angeles and received $640,000 in outside union spending to support her campaign, rode the wave of the teachers strike to take a solid lead with 48.26 percent of the vote. Nevertheless, she fell short of the more than 50 percent needed to win outright and avoid a runoff May 14.

Ortiz led candidate Heather Repenning for the second-place spot by just 53 votes after all the results were tallied on election night. With provisional and late-arriving mail-in ballots still uncounted, results could still change. Principal Cynthia Gonzalez took fourth place, and parent/educator Allison Bajracharya took fifth.

Repenning, who received backing and nearly $1 million in support from SEIU Local 99, the union representing LAUSD bus drivers, cafeteria workers and special education aides, is not conceding the race for second place. There’s also still a slim chance Goldberg could win outright and avoid a runoff.

If Ortiz, 38, holds onto the second place spot, the runoff will present a stark generational, geographic and racial contrast. Ortiz, who works as an attendance counselor at Linda Marquez High School, has strong roots in the primarily Latino Southeast.

Grassroots support helped her overcome a massive spending disadvantage. While Ortiz raised more money than any other Latino candidate, $129,000, she was the fourth place fundraiser overall and had far less spent on her behalf ($90,558) than Goldberg ($640,913), Repenning ($765,704) or Bajracharya ($138,695). SEIU also poured almost $37,000 into negative ads opposing Ortiz.

Speak UP parent leaders, working in coalition with Parent Revolution and Families and Teachers United, clearly had an impact on the results. While none endorsed a candidate, all three focused efforts on informing voters in the Southeast cities of Huntington Park, South Gate, Vernon, Bell, Maywood and Cudahy about the election and encouraging them to vote.

After knocking on more than 22,000 doors and making more than 21,000 phone calls to voters, Speak UP and its coalition partners received pledges to participate in the election from nearly 4,500 voters. Ortiz leads the race for a second-place runoff spot with just 3,368 votes. 

“Speak UP parent leaders worked hard to get the word out to their neighbors that this was an important opportunity for their community to have a voice,” said Speak UP Executive Director Katie Braude. “They wanted to make their voices heard, and they did.”

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