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Next to drop was Bea Stotzer, a Villaraigosa commissioner who had hoped to unseat school board member Jon Lauritzen, a mayoral target in the San Fernando Valley. Stotzer had been gathering signatures for her campaign, when suddenly she dropped out.
Privately, sources said Stotzer was seething after being urged to run by Team Villaraigosa, then told she wasn’t as strong a candidate as Tamar Galatzan — who is now the mayor’s expected pick. Publicly, Stotzer insists she is simply a good soldier, making the sacrifice needed to unseat Lauritzen and help the mayor get more control over L.A. Unified.
“I believe that he has an opportunity to really create some incredible reforms, and I did not want to be in the way,” she said.
The biggest shocker of all was the sudden departure of Tokofsky, a disheveled 12-year school board veteran who once had Villaraigosa’s backing but is now a sworn enemy, thanks to the fight over the mayor’s bid to control L.A. Unified. Tokofsky dropped out one day after meeting with two bigwigs from the powerful United Teachers Los Angeles teachers union that has bankrolled school board members for years.
UTLA president A.J. Duffy, who has been tight with Villaraigosa, didn’t even bother to attend the Tokofsky meeting. And union vice president Josh Pechthalt made clear there was no guarantee Tokofsky would get their nod. Even if Tokofsky did, it came with strings: Tokofsky would not get much-needed campaign funds until February, far too late in the campaign, after the mayor’s team had pounded him in mailers and other media.
Tokofsky insisted that the UTLA confab wasn’t the only factor in his decision. “Could they have been a little more encouraging? Yes. But would [more solid support] have swayed my decision? I don’t know,” he said.
Others in the union fear that its leaders are marching to the mayor’s beat on the upcoming election. High school teacher Warren Fletcher, who opposes the mayor’s takeover, said, “The [union] leadership is still working within the framework of ‘We and Antonio are a team.’ That’s their worldview. And as a result, that’s affecting their take on any number of political issues.”
So unhappy was the UTLA’s teacher-controlled legislative body over the union brass’s pale support for Tokofsky — a fighter for many teachers’ issues over the years — that they in turn blocked the union’s nomination of likely Villaraigosa candidate Richard Vladovic, a former school administrator running to replace departing board member Mike Lansing. The teachers also forced their union leaders to back Lauritzen, another Villaraigosa foe, earlier than expected.
As of now, the March 6 school board races feature just four, three or even two competing candidates, leaving voters with fewer and fewer choices.
As for the City Council race — well, a funny thing happened in the northeast San Fernando Valley. Assemblyman Richard Alarcón’s one-two punch scared off his competitors, Fuentes and Montañez, but still didn’t produce exactly the desired effect. By Friday, no fewer than nine other candidates had stepped forward to run against Alarcón, ranging from bit players at City Hall to Monica Rodriguez, one-time aide to both former mayor Richard Riordan and former councilman Mike Hernandez.
Yes, Rodriguez had heard rumors of the backroom deals designed to wipe out any real competition against Alarcón. But she declared that she’s in it to win: “There’s nothing that could have been given [to] me to get me out.”