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No Recount In The Closest LAUSD Election In 24 Years

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LAUSD District 5 candidate Graciela Ortiz missed out an a runoff for the seat by a mere 31 votes. (Courtesy of the Ortiz Campaign)
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This year's primary election for an open seat on the Los Angeles Unified School Board was the closest result in an LAUSD race in 24 years.

On Wednesday, candidate Graciela Ortiz announced she would not challenge that result. In an interview, Ortiz said she decided not to request a recount ahead of a deadline Wednesday evening.

The final tally left Ortiz on the outside looking in -- just 31 votes behind Heather Repenning for second place and a spot in the May runoff election that will decide who ultimately claims the LAUSD Board District 5 seat.

"The numbers just weren't there," Ortiz said. "Historically, when you do a recount, you end up getting maybe a handful of votes different. If [the margin] were in the single digits, possibly."

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Only the top two finishers from the March 5 primary will advance to the runoff on May 14. Jackie Goldberg took first place with 48 percent of the vote. Ortiz and Repenning ran a neck-and-neck race for second; both won around 13 percent.

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The margin in this year's election was the tightest LAUSD race since 1995, when a recount determined that David Tokofsky beat Lucia Rivera for a school board seat by a mere 76 votes.

Ortiz's campaign had suggested another, overlapping special election for an open State Senate seat, which may have confused some voters.

State Senate District 33 covers some of the same turf as LAUSD Board District 5 -- in particular, the "Southeast Cities" like Huntington Park, where Ortiz is a city council member and a high school counselor.

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Election day in the state Senate race was this Tuesday, March 26 -- but sample- and mail-in ballots were sent to voters at around the same time as the March 5 LAUSD primary.

The near-simultaneous arrivals of election materials also may have prompted some voters to show up at the wrong polling place on March 5; many voters were assigned to different precincts for the LAUSD and state Senate elections.

Michael Sanchez, a spokesman for the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/Clerk's office, acknowledged that a small number of voters who cast ballots by mail, stuffed LAUSD ballots into state Senate envelopes.

But Sanchez said any ballots mailed that way -- and received by the mail-in deadline for the LAUSD race -- were counted in the overall totals for the school district race. Ortiz said she was satisfied that voters who showed up to the incorrect polling place were allowed to cast provisional ballots.

"Every single question that we had, we got answered," Ortiz said.

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Repenning, who initially declared victory after the county concluded its count on March 15, said the decision not to recount leaves a little more room to run a "short sprint" to the runoff election day.

"The work for me is to continue to build my coalition," Repenning said, "so that I can really give myself the best possible chance to win on May 14."

Ortiz said she is still deciding whether or not to run for re-election for her seat on the Huntington Park City Council.

"All odds were against us," Ortiz wrote in a statement emailed to her campaign's supporters, "just like many times the odds are against the children in our communities."

"In fact, it is just the beginning," she continued. "I will continue to fight for equity in all our schools."

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Ortiz said she was still deciding whether to make an endorsement, but could announce whether she backs Repenning or Goldberg as early as Sunday.

UPDATES:

Mar. 28, 9 a.m.: This article was updated to include Ortiz's plans to endorse in the race.

This article was originally published on Mar. 27 at 6:26 p.m.