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Recount may determine school board election

With some ballots left to be counted, a 12-vote margin separates two candidates in the La Cañada race.

November 09, 2011|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com

It could take weeks to determine the outcome of the razor-thin election for La Cañada Unified school board, in which the third-place candidate — a 20-year-old Princeton University student — has pledged to request a recount if the preliminary outcome holds.

After the unofficial tally, a 12-vote margin is all that separated Andrew “AJ” Blumenfeld from getting one of two seats in the election, but Eileen Shea, a spokeswoman for the county registrar-recorder’s office said Wednesday that provisional and write-in ballots had yet to be counted.

If elected, Blumenfeld would be the youngest member of the school board, which was formed in 1961, according to available records and multiple interviews. A 19-year-old Occidental College student ran unsuccessfully in 1975.

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Blumenfeld led the pack in fundraising too, banking $13,730 in monetary contributions, according to the most recent finance disclosure forms.

As of Wednesday, Ellen Multari and Jeanne Broberg were leading with 31.39% and 27.2% of the vote, respectively, while Blumenfeld trailed slightly behind with 27%, making the race too close to call.

“[The vote count] will change, by how much I don’t know, but there are additional ballots to be counted,” Shea said.

The final tally will be made on Nov. 21 and then go to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for certification, Shea said, at which point a candidate or member of the community would have five days to request a recount.

Blumenfeld said shortly after midnight Wednesday that he would probably request a recount if the final rankings didn't change.

“Our priority is to make sure that every vote is accounted for,” Blumenfeld said. “They run [the ballots] through machines, we just want to make sure it is all right.”

The school board race garnered considerable public interest, made clear by numerous campaign signs and a high volume of letters in local news outlets. The momentum was driven in part by several controversial issues, including a decision by the board to add four non-student professional development days to the academic calendar.

Other hot-button campaign issues included teacher evaluations, declining enrollment, out-of-district-permit students, languishing high school math scores and board transparency.

The contrast of candidates also fueled interest in the race, district watchdogs said.

“I think each of the candidates really brought strengths to the election,” said former school board member and education policy expert Ron Dietel. “It does cost money for the district to pay for an election, but I think it is money well spent overall.”

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