With Yolie Flores deciding not to return to this post, the hot seat in the L.A. Unified School District Board elections tomorrow will be District 5, the only open seat with no incumbents running. Atwater, Silver Lake, Los Feliz, Highland Park, El Sereno, City Terrace, Bell, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Maywood, South Gate and Vernon are all included in District 5.

Flores was an independent voice, not allied with the union or Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa – both are focusing campaign funds to try to secure this seat: United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) union backs Bennet Kayser and Mayor Villaraigosa backs Luis Sanchez. Backed by neither are John Fernandez and write-in candidate Scott Folsom.

A twist in the campaigning:

Bennet Kayser is the UTLA union pick – but got quite a late start tapping into UTLA's backing funds: UTLA started the campaign out backing Fernandez only to retract endorsement after a background check on Fernandez revealed federal and state tax liens, bankruptcy and an arrest in connection with shoplifting, which he was not prosecuted for.

UTLA's backing didn't switch from Fernandez to Kayser until late in the campaign – even after the absentee ballots were already mailed out. Will UTLA's lack of candidate review hurt their present choice of Kayser?

Sanchez has been heavily backed by Mayor Villaraigosa from the very beginning. Sanchez is also supported by Monica Garcia, L.A. Unified School District Board President.

This makes sense since: Sanchez is Garcia's chief of staff and Garcia was former L.A. Unified School District Board President Jose Huizar's chief of staff. Huizar is now City Councilmember for District 14 and is backed by Mayor Villaraigosa.

David Tokofsky who served on the L. A. Unified School Board in this district 5 seat for 12 years tells L.A. Weekly that the strong mayoral influence is a concern, “Sanchez has not distinguished himself from the mayor's machine.”

Kayser tells L.A. Weekly, better late than never: “I'm glad I ultimately got the [UTLA] endorsement. I've appreciated the help … I'm ready to work with everybody. We all want what's good for the kids, we just have different ideas. We will need to find where there's a consensus.”

The question: will there be a runoff election? If Fernandez takes more than 10 percent of the vote, the chances are good that, yes there will be. It could get hairy for Sanchez, and might give Kayser, who is playing catch-up at the moment, the chance to do just that: catch up.

Contact: Mars Melnicoff at mmelnicoff@laweekly.com / follow @marsmelnicoff

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