CITY HALL — A hot race for three open spots on the school board got a little more fuel last week when three challengers from Malibu put $10,000 each into their own campaigns.

The joint committee for Karen Farrer, Seth Jacobson and Craig Foster has $30,500 to spend, according to recent financial filings. Each candidate is responsible for $10,000.

The remaining $500 is from a single teacher in Malibu.

That’s a sizable chunk of change in a race in which the leading fundraiser amongst the incumbents is Jose Escarce with $8,325, and the Malibuites don’t intend to stop there.

The candidates will further pad that lead with two fundraisers scheduled, which they anticipate will bring in between $5,000 and $10,000 each, as well as other contributions not listed on the disclosures that came in after the filing deadline, Jacobson said.

“We loaned money to our campaign to jumpstart the effort and to be competitive with (Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights) which we anticipate will spend at least $100,000 on its slate of candidates,” Jacobson said.

In 2008, SMRR spent $88,282.35 through October for its candidates in a range of electoral contests including the Santa Monica City Council and the Board of Education. The group Community for Excellent Public Schools, which is also backing the three incumbents, spent $9,050 in 2008.

In comparison to their northern neighbors, Ben Allen and Maria Leon-Vazquez brought in $1,250 and $3,185 respectively. The remainder of Allen’s cash-on-hand came from his triumphant 2008 contest.

Allen’s contributions come largely from a UCLA professor and three other community members, while Leon-Vazquez has a wider range of contributors from the Santa Monica College and resident communities.

Her numbers are lagging from 2008, in which she raised a total of $14,463.62 by the end of the year.

Escarce, on the other hand, is “on pace” to match his performance from past years. That is important because donations are the only way to get a candidate’s message out on their own terms — it’s illegal for them to coordinate with independent expenditure committees like SMRR.

“I think the main goal is really to get our message out,” Escarce said. “I think we have an extremely positive message with a proven record of financial accountability and improving achievement in the district.”

He has support from names within the education world including fellow members of the Board of Education and representatives from local parent groups.

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