Update, Monday: Final update shows Johnson down by 31 votes. Waiting for Johnson to pull the plug.
Brian Johnson — the anointed candidate of the charter school movement — appears headed to defeat in his costly race for the 46th Assembly District.
With nearly all the ballots counted, Johnson, a Democrat, is trailing Republican candidate Jay Stern by 35 votes in the battle for second place. If that result holds up, it would all but guarantee that the first-place finisher, City Hall staffer Adrin Nazarian, will go on to win the heavily Democratic district in November.
Johnson was the beneficiary of at least $1.5 million* in outside expenditures from education reform groups, including $400,000 from a group backed by charter advocate Michelle Rhee.
Stern, a chemistry teacher, said he spent just $500 on his campaign, but had the good fortune of being the only Republican in the field. With a handful of ballots left to be counted, and the possibility of a recount looming, Stern said it was too soon to declare victory.
“I hope Brian doesn't challenge it,” Stern said. “It's gonna cause further delays.”
The county Registrar-Recorder's Office said Friday there are only 2,811 ballots left to be tallied countywide, of which only about 150 can be expected to come from the 46th Assembly District. With the votes split among six candidates, it appears almost impossible for Johnson to make up the 35-vote gap on Stern.
Nazarian, the chief of staff to L.A. Councilman Paul Krekorian, finished first with 27.4 percent. Stern has 20.09 percent, to Johnson's 20.0 percent.
Johnson is a former head of the Larchmont Charter Schools, and a former L.A. director for Teach for America. The California Teachers Association spent about $450,000 attacking him.
The CTA endorsed Andrew Lachman in the primary. Lachman finished fourth, and the organization has since thrown its support to Nazarian.
Adam Englander, a spokesman for Johnson's campaign, said that it was too soon to make a decision whether to seek a recount or concede the race.
For more on this intra-party battle, check out Hillel Aron's story, “Eric Bauman vs. Gloria Romero in Assembly District 46.”
* Fixed. Originally said $1.4 million.
Update, Monday evening: The Registrar-Recorder did its final update this afternoon, and Johnson is still down by 31 votes. There are no votes left to count, and while Johnson can challenge the outcome or ask for a recount, that seems like a Hail Mary pass. No concession yet.