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Santa Monica Challengers Get Head Start on Fundraising for Education Boards
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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica


By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

August 5, 2016 -- School Board challenger Jon Kean and College Board challenger Sion Roy are the only candidates in the two board races to receive donations in the first half of the year, according to disclosure statements submitted this week.

Kean, a longtime district volunteer, collected a total of $14,432 from nearly 40 supporters. He also loaned his campaign $1,000. Cardiologist Sion Roy raised $34,407 and loaned his campaign $2,900 in the first half of the year.

Among those contributing to Kean’s campaign were Roosevelt Elementary School principal Natalie Burton, City Councilmember Gleam Davis, Planning Commissioner Gerda Newbold, Inglewood charter school principal Beth Bernstein-Yamashiro and comedian Melissa Rivers.

Unlike in the City Council campaign where individuals are limited to contributing $350 per candidate, there is no maximum amount that a person can give to somebody running for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) board.

His largest individual donation was $1,250.

Kean, whose 12 years of SMMUSD activity includes stints as PTA president at Roosevelt and Lincoln Middle School as well as sitting on the district’s Financial Oversight Committee, announced his candidacy in March (“Santa Monica Education Activist Plans School Board Run,” March 28, 2016).

His likely opponents are elected incumbent Maria Leon-Vazquez, appointed incumbent Ralph Mechur and challenger Phil Brock, although nobody (including Kean) had officially qualified for the ballot as of Thursday.

The deadline to enter the race is August 17.

Four-term board member Jose Escarce is not running for re-election, so there will be at least one newcomer joining the panel after the November election.

This marks the second consecutive SMMUSD board election with an open seat vacated by an incumbent.

Mechur loaned his campaign $500, but did not raise any money through June 30, while Leon-Vazquez and Brock have not reported any donations, according to the disclosure statements.

Kean, Leon-Vazquez and Mechur will benefit from the support of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR). The powerful political group endorsed the candidates at its convention on Sunday (“Santa Monica Incumbents Dominate in SMRR Endorsements for Elected Boards,” August 1, 2016).

The SMRR endorsement means their names and photos will appear on mailers and other campaign literature, and an army of volunteers will encourage people to vote for them.

Six of the seven current board members won their seats with SMRR’s backing. The lone exception is Malibu resident Craig Foster, who was elected in 2014.

As with the School Board, winning the College Board board race without SMRR’s backing is a challenge.

All seven of the current board members were endorsed by SMRR, and the three incumbents facing re-election -- Rob Rader, Margaret Quinones and Susan Aminoff -- received SMRR's backing at Sunday's convention.

While difficult, it is not impossible to win a College Board seat without the SMRR seal of approval. Quinones surprisingly did not receive a SMRR endorsement in 2004, but was still re-elected that year.

Roy, who is the only challenger in the race so far, is off to a good start in the fundraising department with a total of $37,307 in his campaign war chest ("Santa Monica College Board Election Takes Shape," May 10, 2016).

The SMC board incumbents have been much quieter on the fundraising front. None raised money through June 30.

Aminoff loaned her campaign $5,000. Quinones reported $7,900 in spending, but no money collected. She began the year with a balance of $2,379.

The incumbents were elected without any challengers in 2012. The deadline to enter the race is August 12.

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