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Incumbent Abruptly Drops Out of School Board Race

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By Jorge Casuso

August 26, 2022 -- Incumbent Keith Coleman has abruptly dropped out of the race for four open seats on the Santa Monica-Malibu School Board but has not given a reason for his decision.

Reached by telephone late Friday afternoon, Coleman confirmed he is not running for the seat he was appointed to in January 2021, but declined to comment. The Lookout made two subsequent requests for comment that were not returned.

By Friday evening, Coleman's candidate page had been removed from the City Clerk's website with a note stating that he "withdrew candidacy." His campaign website had already been removed from the internet.

It is unclear if Coleman's name will appear on the ballot; City Hall was closed on Friday, and the City Clerk's office could not be reached.

Word that Coleman, a consultant in the education tech field, had withdrawn from a race he was widely considered to win has led to speculation in Santa Monica political circles.

"Many people are wondering why Coleman isn't running," said Councilmember Oscar de la Torre, whose seat Coleman filled after he was elected to the Council.

De la Torre noted that parents have publicly questioned whether Coleman lives in the District and that a request to investigate his residency has been submitted to the City Attorney's office.

The Lookout has independently confirmed the request was made, but it is not clear whether any action has been taken.

Coleman's withdrawal leaves two of the four incumbents in the November 8 race after Craig Foster, the only Malibu resident on the Board, announced he would not seek re-election to a third term.

School Board Vice President Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein and School Board Member Laurie Lieberman are among the seven candidates now vying for the four open seats on the seven-member board.

Coleman had an early start in the race, pulling nominating papers during the first week of election season, and after a random drawing his name was slated to appear third on the School Board ballot.

His campaign reported receiving a $5,000 loan, none of which had been spent during the January 1 to June 30 filing period, according to campaign finance disclosure statements filed with the City Clerk.

Coleman was endorsed by School Board incumbents Tahvildaran-Jesswein and Lieberman, State Senator Henry Stern, Santa Monica College Trustee Barry Snell and Democratic Club President Jon Katz.

Coleman was appointed by the School Board on January 14, 2021 to fill the seat that became vacant after de la Torre was elected to the City Council in November ("School Board Chooses Coleman to Fill de la Torre's Seat," January 15, 2021).

Coleman, who finished fifth in the November 2020 race for three open School Board seats, was chosen from among 23 applicants to replace de la Torre, becoming the fourth Black member in the District's history.

In addition to serving on the School Board, Coleman serves on the Executive Board of the LA County School Teachers Association and as a member of the Delegate Assembly for the CA School Boards Association.

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