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Foster Tops Fundraising in Santa Monica-Malibu School Board Race

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

February 3, 2014 -- By placing third in the November election, Craig Foster became the first Malibu resident elected to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) board in 10 years. 

Completing this challenging task didn't come cheap. He spent $87,000, the most of the seven candidates in the race for four seats, according to his semi-annual campaign statement posted on the City’s website.

Of the money Foster raised, $13,000 of it came from his own pocket. The remainder of the money was collected from various supporters, most of them residents of Santa Monica and Malibu. 

Unlike in the City Council race, there is no limit on how much a candidate can collect from each supporter.

Laurie Lieberman was the top vote-getter, as was the case in 2010 when she was elected to her first term. Lieberman spent $58,000. Of that money, $1,300 came from her.

Richard Tahvildaran-Jeswein, a teacher at Santa Monica College, placed second in the contest, and was elected to his first term. He spent $44,000, and his campaign has a debt of $10,000, but also a cash balance of $4,000. 

Tahvildaran-Jeswein did not contribute any of his own money to the campaign.

Oscar de la Torre, who was elected to his fourth term with a fourth-place finish, did not submit an official semi-annual campaign statement by the February 2 deadline. He raised at least $20,000 based on campaign finance statements submitted in October.

Incumbent Ralph Mechur spent $24,000, including $395 of his own money. He placed fifth in the contest, so he was not re-elected. But Mechur returned to the board in January as an appointee to fill the seat vacated by Ben Allen, who resigned following his election to the State Senate.

Lieberman, de la Torre, Mechur and Tahvildaran-Jeswein also were helped in the campaign as endorsees of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR). The powerful organization used a portion of its nearly $160,000 spent on the campaign to promote those candidates.

SMRR also used its money on the races for the City Council, college and rent boards as well as the ballot measure campaigns.

Another powerful organization, Community for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS), spent money to support Lieberman, Mechur, Tahvildaran-Jeswein and Foster. In addition, the union Unite Here 11 campaigned for Mechur, de la Torre, Lieberman and Tahvildaran-Jesswein, as well as against Foster.

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