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Rivas builds on small lead in L.A. school board race; Gonez extends lead

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Rocio Rivas has built on her lead over Maria Brenes in a close Los Angeles school board race to represent downtown, surrounding neighborhoods and the Eastside, according to an updated tally released Monday.

In a second board race, for a seat representing the east San Fernando Valley, school board President Kelly Gonez has extended her advantage over challenger Marvin Rodriguez.

The Rivas-Brenes race has implications for the direction of the nation’s second-largest school system. Rivas, who is a senior aide to school board member Jackie Goldberg, was strongly backed by the teachers’ union and opposed by supporters of privately operated, publicly funded charter schools. Most charters, which enroll about 1 in 5 district students, are nonunion.

Brenes, the leader of the Boyle Heights-based community group InnerCity Struggle, had support from charter school backers, but also from other unions, especially Local 99 of Service Employees International Union, which includes bus drivers, teacher aides, custodians and cafeteria workers.

Rivas had 50.89% of votes tallied late Monday; Brenes 49.11%

In the other race, Gonez has 51.73% of the votes tallied so far; Rodriguez just over 48%. As of late Monday, Gonez had a lead of more than 2,500 votes, a difference that will be difficult for Rodriguez to overcome.

Regardless, Rodriguez, a high school Spanish teacher with virtually no campaign money and no major endorsements, made a surprisingly strong showing.

Ballots mailed as late as election day, Nov. 8, will be counted if they arrive through next Tuesday. It’s difficult to predict how many votes remain to be counted in these two contests. The vote count in the east San Fernando Valley area, called District 6, already has surpassed the total for the June primary.

The total so far in the Rivas-Brenes race, in District 2, is nearly what it was in the primary.

Campaign dollar figures show that $9.5 million went into the Brenes-Rivas contest, with about twice as much spending — $3 million more — going to Brenes’ campaign.

Independent campaigns on her behalf were funded by Local 99 and also by a political action committee controlled by retired businessman Bill Bloomfield and Netflix founder Reed Hastings, a charter schools supporter.

United Teachers Los Angeles launched a major independent campaign on behalf of Rivas.

The winner of the Rivas-Brenes contest will replace longtime incumbent Monica Garcia, who could not run again because of term limits.

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