It's Official: Heather Repenning Will Face Jackie Goldberg in LAUSD Runoff Election

Jackie Goldberg at a candidate forum in Cudahy. Goldberg, 73, is running for a seat on the LAUSD board that she already served from 1983 to 1991. (Photo by Kyle Stokes/KPCC)

UPDATED March 23, 12:00 p.m.:

County election officials have officially confirmed that former public works commissioner Heather Repenning scored a razor-thin victory over Huntington Park City Councilwoman Graciela Ortiz in the race to advance to a runoff in the special election to fill an open L.A. Unified School Board seat.

Updated results released on March 15 showed Repenning leading Ortiz by a mere 31 votes. L.A. County election officials declared that result official on Friday. Repenning will face Jackie Goldberg in the May 14 runoff to represent LAUSD Board District 5, which covers parts of northeast and southeast L.A.

Ortiz has five days, beginning today, to ask for a recount, but her campaign would have to pay for it at a cost of $5,000 per day.

Goldberg finished in the lead of the March 5 election with more than 48 percent of the vote — just short of the 50 percent margin needed to avoid a runoff. She lobbied hard last August to be re-appointed to the board, a gig she last held 27 years ago.

At the time, the veteran of local politics in L.A. said she'd be willing to serve in the role temporarily, at least until voters elected a permanent replacement for Ref Rodriguez. Rodriguez had recently resigned his LAUSD board seat amid a campaign finance scandal.

But when the LAUSD board voted to turn Goldberg away, board member George McKenna saw what was coming next for the former L.A. City Councilor and State Assembly member.

McKenna speculated Goldberg might just run in the special election for the seat.

"If she runs, c'est formidable," McKenna, a New Orleans native, predicted in Cajun French. "She will be far more formidable than if you appoint her."

Goldberg did run. She got the backing of United Teachers Los Angeles. And she has proven formidable.

Repenning was the race's strongest fundraiser and boasted the endorsements of Mayor Eric Garcetti and of the union that represents many non-teaching LAUSD employees. That union, SEIU Local 99, spent more than $919,000 in hopes of swinging the race to Repenning.

UTLA, which endorsed Goldberg, didn't spend as much as SEIU on the race, but the teacher's union is still riding a wave of goodwill in the wake of their January strike. Goldberg's candidacy appears to have benefitted from that wave, channelling some of the grassroots organizing energy generated by the strike.

In recent years, LAUSD elections have turned into expensive proxy wars between teachers unions and charter school groups. In a recent interview, Raphe Sonenshein, who runs the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State L.A., likens the protracted, back-and-forth debate to "trench warfare."

"The strike does seem to have moved the trench of the union forward," Sonenshein said.

But the California Charter Schools Association has yet to show up for the battle this year. The charter association declined to endorse a candidate in the primary election.

UPDATES:

March 23, 12:00 p.m.: This article was updated with news that the election result was confirmed by county officials.

March 15, 4:50 p.m.: This article was updated to reflect Repenning's declaration of victory.

March 15, 3:45 p.m.: This article was updated with the latest results.

March 12, 4 p.m.: This article was updated with a new batch of results.

March 8, 4 p.m.: This article was updated with the latest mail-in ballots.

March 6, 7 a.m.: This article was updated with the most recent vote tallies.

This article was originally published at 10:09 p.m.

This is a developing story that will be updated as more information becomes available.