SMMUSD — A seven-candidate race for three contested and one open seat on the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education has brought in more than $130,000 in campaign contributions.

Money talks in Board of Education elections. Four years ago, when many of these candidates faced off, outgoing Boardmember Nimish Patel spent more than $74,000 on his race and pulled off an upset victory. He was the only elected member not backed by Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), the city’s largest political party.

Patel had raised more than $63,000 by this time in 2010 and spent more than $36,000.

Patel announced earlier this year that he would not seek reelection and none of this year’s candidates have pulled in that kind of money but, with the election two weeks away, fundraising is heating up.

Challenger Craig Foster leads the fundraising race thanks to a $25,000 contribution earlier this month from Robert and Denise Hayman, Malibu residents who work in real estate.

All told, Foster, a Malibu resident, has received more than $41,000 in support this year, according to campaign disclosure statements.

He’s spend $11,500, largely on mailers and signs.

Foster also got a $5,000 contribution from the Community for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS), which has endorsed Foster and fellow challenger, Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein and incumbents Laurie Lieberman and Ralph Mechur.

Tahvildaran-Jesswein has raised more than $37,000 and spent $13,687, much of it on campaign literature.

Incumbent Laurie Lieberman has raised close to $35,000 and spent about $8,000, largely on campaign literature. She’s contributed some of her own money to the campaign.

This time in her last campaign, in 2010, Lieberman had raised nearly $22,000 and spent $6,700.

Incumbent Ralph Mechur is a distant fourth in the cash race, having raised nearly $14,000 as of the most recent campaign disclosure statements.

He’s got more than $9,000 in the bank having spent only $4,268 thus far. Mechur, too, has spent some of his own money on the campaign.

Last time he ran, in 2010, he’d raised just over $6,000 and spent $2,000 by this point in the year.

Incumbent Oscar de la Torre has brought in $2,300 and spent $350 on a web page for his campaign.

At this point in his last race, in 2010, he’d raised $2,700 and spent nothing, according to campaign disclosure statements.

Dhun May has raised $2,000 and spent $500.

Patricia Finer has raised $1,020 and spent nothing.

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