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SCHOOL BOARD RACE PIVOTAL POWERFUL BACKERS HELPING GALATZAN, LAURITZEN BATTLE.

Byline: RICK ORLOV

Staff Writer

The struggle for control of the Los Angeles Unified School District will culminate Tuesday when voters go to the polls to decide between two political giants for the school board.

The race for the seat in the San Fernando Valley has been one of the most contentious as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa stakes his political future on the campaign of Deputy City Attorney Tamar Galatzan over incumbent Jon Lauritzen, who is backed by the powerful United Teachers Los Angeles union.

The District 3 race is one of just four on Tuesday's ballots, and officials say the skimpy lineup could fail to draw even 20 percent of the voters already battling election fatigue.

Tuesday's election will be the third in just seven months for Los Angeles voters -- after last November's general election and the March primary.

Meanwhile, the high-profile, big-budget LAUSD campaign has eclipsed a low-key race in the Los Angeles Community College District, where voters will be asked to decide between incumbent trustee Georgia Mercer and challenger Roy Burns.

Two former school administrators also are battling each other for the LAUSD board seat representing territory from the Harbor Area to Watts. There, Villaraigosa has backed retired school superintendent Richard Vladovic over educator Neal Kleiner.

Also to be decided is a race for the 39th Assembly District seat in the San Fernando Valley, which Richard Alarcon vacated soon after he won it last year. He gave it up after he was elected to the City Council.

There are five candidates for the Assembly seat, whose listing on a separate ballot could cause confusion for voters.

Leading the field of candidates in the Assembly race is Felipe Fuentes, who had been chief deputy to former Councilman Alex Padilla. Other candidates are auditor Jose Bonilla Sr., peace officer Eric Dwight Rothenay, retired administrative assistant Margie Carranza and businessman Felipe "Philip" Siordia. A July 10 runoff will be held if nobody gets a majority.

City Clerk Frank Martinez said his office has worked with county officials to try to avert confusion about the separate ballot for the Assembly race.

"We will have separate tables at the polling sites and have greeters there to help voters out," Martinez said, adding that voters in the 39th Assembly District also were sent letters explaining what to expect.

But it is the Galatzan-Lauritzen school board race that has captured the spotlight with board control at stake and more than $3.2 million spent by both sides on their campaigns.

Villaraigosa has continued to downplay the notion that he is trying to take control of the district, but he has been actively raising money for his candidates and his top political operatives are working on Galatzan's campaign.

Galatzan has extensively used mailers and has published her own book on the campaign, while Lauritzen has scrambled to compete.

Lauritzen has argued that he is all that stands in the way of a mayoral takeover of the district and an effort by Villaraigosa to get around the losses he has suffered in court over legislation that would have given him greater authority in the district.

Galatzan argues that she would be independent of the mayor and make her own decisions. The district cannot be allowed to continue on the same path of poor achievement, she says.

rick.orlov(at)dailynews.com

(213) 978-0390

Tuesday's election

Polls open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

To find your polling place:

See the back cover of your official sample ballot;

Call the City Clerk's office at (888) 873-1000;

See www.cityclerk.lacity.org/election

CAPTION(S):

2 photos, 2 boxes

Photo:

(1) Jon Lauritzen

(2) Tamar Galatzan

Box:

(1) Tuesday's election (see text)

(2) LAUSD RACE

SOURCE: Daily News research

Gregg Miller/Staff Artist
COPYRIGHT 2007 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 14, 2007
Words:625
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