Education board candidates spent more on the 2014 election than they did in the previous two elections combined.

The seven Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education candidates spent a combined $257,705, according to campaign disclosure statements, with another $37,554 coming from outside groups.

Craig Foster, a Malibu resident who ultimately won election, spent $91,712 — more than any candidate has spent in the years that campaign finance statements are readily available.

Former Boardmember Nimish Patel, who did not seek reelection last year, was the board’s previous big spender. He dropped $74,582 and pulled off a surprise victory in 2010.

Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein — who, like Foster, was a challenger and won election — placed second in the cash race last year with $59,220.

Lieberman, who won reelection, was a close third. Both Oscar de la Torre, who won reelection, and Ralph Mechur, who did not but was subsequently appointed to fill newly-elected State Senator Ben Allen’s seat, raised about $24,000.

Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), the city’s largest political party, and Committee for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS), the two groups that consistently spend on the school board race, dropped more than they have in years passed.

SMRR has upped its school board spending slightly in each of the last four elections, always doling out money evenly among its three or four endorsed candidates (this year de la Torre, Tahvildaran-Jesswein, Lieberman, and Mechur).

Political action committees were more prolific in the 2012 election, when four groups combined for close to $90,000.

In 2010, SMRR was the only committee to spend on the Ed Board race but candidates raised $180,000 on their own.

Lieberman was the second biggest spender that year, behind Patel, using $52,473 to win election. Chris Bley spent $25,259 that election and $33,741 the election prior but fell short in the polls.

Unlike City Council candidates, who are confined to receiving $325 from each donor, Ed Board candidates have more leeway.

Foster, for instance, got several $5,000 contributions in the last election and one $25,000 contribution from a Robert Hayman of Malibu.

More than a million dollars was spent on the City Council race this past year, with candidates bringing in more than $640,000 and outside groups spending at least $378,000. The council race was also the most expensive in recent years.

All told, more than $530,000 has been spent on education board races in the last four elections. Council elections have resulted in $2.3 million in spending during that same time frame.

Despite the high spending, voter turnout was substantially lower than in previous years.

dave@www.smdp.com

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