No Malibu Candidates Are in Upcoming School Board Race
• Five Sign Up to Campaign for Four Available Seats
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
No additional candidates have submitted nominating petitions for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Nov. 3 board of education election, despite an extended filing period that ended on Aug. 13.
The extension occurred because Kathy Wisnicki, one of four incumbent board members eligible for reelection, and the board’s only Malibu representative, failed to pull papers by the original Aug. 8 deadline.
The election is for four of the seven seats on the board. Incumbents Jose Escarce and Maria Leon-Vazquez are both seeking their third four-year term. Ralph Mechur, who was appointed to fill a vacated seat, is running to finish out that seat’s two-year term.
Running against the three incumbents are two longtime Santa Monica residents and Santa Monica High School alumni.
Chris Bley is a U.S. government and history teacher who has participated in campaign work for the Democratic party during the 2000, ’04 and ’06 elections, and has served in the Peace Corps.
Ben Allen is a 2008 Berkeley law school graduate who recently finished serving as a UC Student Regent. He is also active in the Democratic party.
Judith Meister, a PTA leader who had pulled papers to run, has announced that she is withdrawing from the race. Meister failed to receive endorsements from two key groups: the Teachers Union and the City of Santa Monica’s formidable tenants rights group Santa Monicans for Renters Rights.
Both organizations chose to endorse Escarce, Leon-Vazquez, Mechur and Allen. Escarce, who received strong support from the Teachers Union, initially failed to win a SMRR endorsement by one vote.
In an unusual move, the 13-member SMRR steering committee, meeting in closed session, overruled the membership and voted to endorse Escarce.Leon-Vazquez.
Leon-Vazquez, Mechur and Allen received both the SMRR and Teachers Union endorsements without complications.
The new board will have significant issues to face, including the selection of a new permanent superintendent of schools to replace Dianne Talarico, who departed last month.
The current board brought in interim head Tim Cuneo who will stay until the new board decides on a permanent replacement.
This election marks the first time is over 20 years that Malibu has been left without a local candidate for the board of education that oversees school issues in both cities.