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Election Aftermath: Gloria Romero and the LA Times Factor

June 10th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon



The elections results were pretty much what we expected
in terms of candidates’ victories. No real surprises in either the Democratic or Republican camps.

The voting outcomes on the ballot measures were heartening because of the voters’ rejection of both corporate attempts to buy a nice, shiny new law—namely Prop. 16 and 17. It is also cheering that the electorate embraced of ANYTHING that might even have a tiny shred of a chance at changing our state’s dysfunctional, money-driven and paralyzingly partisan system.

For me, however, the one truly dispiriting outcome of this June primary was the fact that State Senator Gloria Romero did not make it into the runoff for State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Instead, the top vote-getter was a virtual unknown, Larry Aceves, a former school superintendent who was lured out of retirement for the task by the association of California school administrators, which put $400,000 into his mailers. Amazingly, Aceves got 18.9 percent of the votes cast by the 3.2 million who went to the polls, no doubt at least somewhat helped by having the words “former school superintendent’ after his name, while the other two had IDs that seemed less obviously education-related (even though Romero’s also a tenured college professor).

Oh, yeah, and Aceves was also helped by the fact that he was endorsed by the Los Angeles Times.

The number two vote getter, Tom Torlakson, had a more obvious reason for whatever success he enjoyed as he was the darling of the state’s powerful teachers’ unions, who threw substantial support behind him. Torlakson, who won 18 percent of the vote, was opposed to charter schools, opposed to the parents’ choice measure, and opposed to the federal Race to the Top program.

Romero came in third with 17.2 percent of the bote. Unlike Aceves and Toriakson who both arguably represented the status quo, Romero was the reform candidate in the race.

The Daily News, which endorsed her, put it succinctly:

Tom Torlakson, a liberal Democrat from the Bay Area, is backed by the teachers unions—a group that has worked strenuously to thwart reform in California at every turn.

Larry Aceves, a retired schools superintendent and teacher from the Bay Area, is backed by district superintendents across the state and the administrators association. He’s been a part of the same education structure for three decades that has overseen the downfall of what was once an envied public educational system.

The third candidate, Sen. Gloria Romero-–and the only one of the three from Southern California – is supported by a collection of teachers, students, administrators, parents and everyone else who supports serious reform of education in California.

[SNIP]

Though part of the established Democratic power structure in Sacramento for years, no other legislator has done more to buck her own party to push union-opposed school reform legislation than Romero. She’s either sponsored or supported bills that would allow for innovative programs like L.A. Unified’s School Choice, for the parent trigger to force change at failing schools, for allowing districts to have some flexibility in how they lay off teachers, and for changes in teacher evaluations that allowed the state to compete in federal Race to the Top funding…..

So why did the LA Times, which has expressed support for nearly all of the reforms that Romero championed, endorse the very nice guy who, no matter how likable, represents the way it’s always been?

The position of SPI comes with some real power. He or she will determine what should be on the state’s standardized tests, and will decide when and how to require changes in schools that are failing to make adequate progress. These are both elements of the state’s vast education bureaucracy that could use some fresh eyes and some level-headed examination. It also features a fairly large bully pulpit, that Romero would have put to good and energetic use.

In the end, around 30,000 votes made the difference between making it into the runoff or not for Romero.

In this low-turn-out election where few were paying much attention to the down-ballot races, it is reasonable to guess that an endorsement by the state’s largest newspaper could have been a deciding factor—perhaps THE deciding factor—in how 30,000, or 40,000 or 60,000 votes got cast.

The LA Times editorial board explained in part why it chose Aceves. In essence, they said, because he’s calm, non-partisan, upbeat and experienced. Okay, fair enough.

However, given the mess this state’s schools are in, to my mind anyway, a sure hand on the tiller—while undeniably desirable—no longer seems like enough.

Posted in elections, Social Justice Shorts | 4 Comments »

4 Responses

  1. sbl Says:

    When the Times used Aceves being “non-partisan” as a reason to back her instead of Romero, it reminds of other recent endorsements which have been, frankly, just plain AGAINST any Democrat. Her background as a Democrat legislator probably worked against her. They pushed Trutanich as non-partisan though of course, that was just to run as such after being a lifelong Republican (though with no record of public service in that party either, certainly none they could point to). They’ve always pushed Cooley as non-partisan (i.e., anti-Democrat, aligned with the Republicans like Antonovich, Knabe, Baca and Zine), though now that he’s running as a Republican, they had that weird editorial wondering if their endorsement of him would actually hurt him with his party now. Some have cynically noted that who they endorse depends on whether they’re repped by Republican party op’s like John Thomas whose allegedly close to some Op-Ed writer(s), who Dick Riordan and certain other interests that they care about want, even who’s invited or likely to invite a certain op ed writer to dinner and social events…makes as much sense as anything.

    Since neither Democrats nor Republicans trust their endorsements now, and see them as openly biased and even mean-spirited against those they don’t endorse, I don’t think the Times is as much of a factor with those who follow politics more carefully. Did it help Aceves win? Personally, I think his having held the job before mattered more – few knew who Romero was or what she stood for.

    We’ll see how their biases shake out in coming months. They didn’t endorse anyone for Governor and were right to be wary of a woman who bought her election never having voted, but her values seem more in line with theirs than Brown’s. Fiorina as fighting the “Democratic Establshment” will get their support, except she’s already started to sabottage herself with those catty remarks and others which suggest she may not be a good team player. I’ve noted how they refuse to write about the injunction slapped on Cooley for openly discriminating against his whole Dep. DA’s Assn., not just one or two bad apples as he claims – and though the injunction with harsh condemnation was issued by a Bush appointee, conservative Judge Otis Wright II. They refused to expose the hypocrisy of Cooley-Trutanich campaigning against SO40 and pinning the murder of Jamiel Shaw, Sr. on the city’s mayor and city councilman, despite it being Cooley’s office and Baca’s which authorized the killer’s release. (Tim Rutten on the other hand explained why he was for it, but seems every time he writes a piece, the official Op Ed comes out against him. More recently, he wrote with concern that Trutanich was using the bully pulpit to be a bully, and they countered with another in support of him.) They keep harping on how brave Cooley is for going after Polanski, as though that weren’t being done to coincide with his campaign’s needs for a high-profile case to compensate for allegations he’s “soft” on Three Strikes, and allegedly teamed with Johnnie Cochran’s firm to unsuccessfully overturn the law. As he opposed Marcy’s Law giving giving more rights to victims – issues his Democratic opponent points out. As well as how he has done nothing to prosecute environmental crime, and allegedly supports Texas oil companies instead. No surprises there.

    You yourself noted that they hired “another Bush appointee” someone Orr as a reporter — he’ll fit in with with David Zahniser who seems to share the editorial board agenda. There’s talk that Phil Willon was relegated to Riverside because he didn’t do enough to dig up dirt on the mayor earlier — his story on the tickets came after Fox 11′s. (A conservative outlet.) Maybe you can find out if this goes to the publishers and editors, something to do with the Chicago Trib’s ownership?

  2. Sure Fire Says:

    Romero had the endorsement of the two LAUSD donkeys and that did not help her one bit.

  3. Phill Lombardo Says:

    Gloria Romero’s school reforms are wrong. The only one who supprots them are those who stand to make money if they are inacted.

    A majority of the 20 candidates who ran against Romero also oppose her school reforms. Aceves entered the canpaign late. If he would have entered earlier, other candidates probably wouldn’t have seeked office, and he would have won the 50% needed to avoid a runoff.

    The miserable 17% Romero received is evidence that parents don’t favor education reforms created by greedy corporate billionairs seeking to control education funding.

  4. Phill Lombardo Says:

    Gloria Romero’s school reforms are wrong. The only one who supprots them are those who stand to make money if they are inacted.

    A majority of the 20 candidates who ran against Romero also oppose her school reforms. Aceves entered the canpaign late. If he would have entered earlier, other candidates probably wouldn’t have seeked office, and he would have won the 50% needed to avoid a runoff.

    The miserable 17% Romero received is evidence that parents don’t favor education reforms created by greedy corporate billionairs seeking to control education funding.

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