Update, 11:39 PM: The race is tightening up a bit, with Zimmer's lead down to 10 percent.

Incumbent Steve Zimmer has a significant lead over challenger Kate Anderson, with absentee ballots and a small number at-poll ballots being counted.

This race was expected to go down to the wire. But Zimmer leads comfortably, 57 to 44.

Why? First of all, Zimmer is an incumbent. That's tough to beat in this town. The other incumbent, Monica Garcia, also enjoys a healthy lead.

Secondly, Zimmer may have benefited from a money backlash.

Over $3 million has been spent on this race, a staggering sum for such a low-profile (not to mention low paying) job, most of it from special interest groups like UTLA, the SEIU, and the Coalition for School Reform, whose chief fundraiser just so happens to be Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

The Coalition, which is backing Anderson, has gotten big checks from big names you wouldn't expect to see involved in a West coast school board race. For example, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg cut Villaraigosa and the reformers a check for $1 million. Other donors include Eli Broad, Jerry Perenchio, Michelle Rhee's Students First and, believe or not, a subsidiary of News Corporation, owned by the one and only Rupert Murdoch.

Voters may have been turned off by out-of-state billionaires (some of whom are, gasp, Republicans) writing big checks.

Thirdly, Zimmer clearly benefitted from the much vaunted union turnout machine. He's backed by the UTLA and the SEIU, which represents classified LAUSD employees (like cafeteria workers and custodians). They've come close to matching the Coalition in dollars spent.

But more importantly, their members phone bank and walk districts. And, of course, they vote in great numbers. In low turnout elections, that can make all the difference.

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