DOWNTOWN — Nimish Patel, the newcomer to Santa Monica politics who out-fundraised his opponents in the school board race but failed to win a single major endorsement, has notched an upset victory, unseating current board president Barry Snell.
Patel had earned 10,298 votes by Wednesday, good for fourth place in the race for four seats, just ahead of Snell, who received 9,169 votes and will leave the board after serving one four-year term.
The top three finishers were: Laurie Lieberman, who received 14,258 votes; Oscar de la Torre, who received 12,634 votes; and Ralph Mechur, who received 11,430 votes.
Even with nearly 6,000 ballots yet to be counted, candidates acknowledged the results were unlikely to change.
“I thought I still had work I could help the board with, so there’s some disappointment. But overall I think that I did a good job and that the new [board] members will also do a good job,” Snell said Wednesday morning.
Patel, who had been in sixth place when early election returns were posted just after 8 p.m. on Tuesday, saw his ranking steadily rise as the night wore on. His seat on the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School Board wasn’t assured until after 2 a.m. on Wednesday.
“I haven’t slept. I’m living off some adrenaline right now but I feel fantastic,” Patel said Wednesday afternoon. “I didn’t think it looked good when the early precinct reporting numbers came out, but you’ve got to watch it to the end. I was very excited come 3 o’clock in the morning.”
Patel raised nearly $90,000 for his campaign, giving him a huge financial edge.
“My fundraising obviously was a big factor to get my communication out there,” he said, though he added he believed his combination of business experience, his work on the district’s Financial Oversight Committee and his platform of bringing change to the school board was what appealed to voters.