(May 5, 2006) -- A May 4th recount of six precincts in LBUSD's 1st district indicates that voters reelected incumbent School Boardmember Mary Stanton on April 11 by a roughly 49%-51% margin (about 130 votes). The outcome effectively thwarts efforts by the Teachers Union of Long Beach (TALB) to gain a controlling majority on the five-member governing body negotiating contracts with the teachers TALB represents.
The recount of the six selected precincts was requested by Jim Deaton, one of a trio of candidates backed by TALB. It began shortly after 10:30 a.m. By the afternoon, the City Clerk's office had informed LBReport.com that Mr. Deaton has ceased any further recount.
The recounting procedure, legally open to the public, was conducted in the City Council lounge. We'd never observed a recount before...and watched for about an hour as the City Clerk's office, coordinated with the City Attorney's office, conducted what appeared to be a very well-organized, professionally conducted proceeding.
The recount allows a confirmatory re-check of two crucial parts of the voting counting process. The parties could observe (and potentially challenge) each counted ballot and then observe a hand-tallied count of the previous machine-counted total.
The City Clerk's office assembled a board of four staffers. One, a "caller," took each ballot one by one and called out the name of voted candidate. "Jim Deaton. Mary Stanton. Mary Stanton. Jim Deaton" she said in the hushed room.
TALB Executive Director Scott McVarish (a lawyer) watched closely. (Mr. Deaton had also retained election counsel in requesting the recount). On the other side, Attorney Ronald Turovsky (of the L.A. law firm of Manatt/Phelps/Phillips) also observed closely for Ms. Stanton.
Two City Clerk office staffers kept separate running tallies. An additional City Clerk staffer observed the proceedings. Tallies were reconciled for each precinct recounted. Most times, the hand recount matched the machine count; on one or two occasions, the result varied by a vote or two.
City Clerk Larry Herrera and senior staffers Becky Burleson and Virginia Galletta were present, as was Assistant City Attorney Heather Mahood. Clerk Herrera distributed copies of CA's Uniform Counting Standards in addition to lists of ballots previously tallied.
In the end, only a handful of votes changed [we were told afterward three] in the six precincts recounted, which didn't change the election outcome. (Incumbent Stanton led challenger Deaton by 135 votes on machine-counted ballots in April).
TALB won one School Board seat in April when challenger Michael Ellis defeated incumbent School Board President Suja Lowenthal, who'd announced she would abandon her Board position if she wins a multi-candidate June special election for the Second District City Council seat vacated by Dan Baker. Lowenthal didn't campaign personally for reelection to the School Board...but was backed for reelection [despite entering the Council race after it was too late to remove her name from the ballot] by the Press-Telegram, Business Journal and at least one independent [non-candidate controlled] committee...and still lost.
That leaves one remaining School Board race to be decided: incumbent ELB/Lakewood area Boardmember Jim Choura vs. TALB-backed challenger David Barton...a contest expected to be fiercely fought in a June runoff. In a three-candidate April race, Barton drew roughly 45% of the vote to Choura's roughly 38%. Like Boardmember Stanton, Boardmember Choura is backed by LBUSD Superintendent Chris Steinhauser and a number of school principals.
The Choura vs. Barton School Board battle coincides with another major ELB contest...in which residents will decide whether to write-in and reelect incumbent Vice Mayor/Councilwoman Jackie Kell or elect a new Councilmember, Gerrie Schipske. In April, Ms. Schipske finished first in a multi-candidate race, edging out incumbent Kell by about two dozen votes.
Ms Schipske is (coincidentally) TALB's General Counsel...and lawn signs for Schipske in TALB's distinctive format (positioning her as the "Teachers' Choice") are now visible in parts of ELB. Kell is a former teacher (ELB's Millikan High).