As eight candidates vie for three School Board seats, Jon Kean and Jen Smith are the clear fundraising front-runners, reporting $23,354 and $18,015 in total contributions respectively. Of the other candidates Steven Johnson reported $4,221, Keith Coleman reported $1,794, Esther Hickman reported $1,540, and Maria Leon-Vazquez reported $750.
Fundraising in this election cycle so far follows an unusual pattern between incumbents and challengers. While incumbent Kean raised the most money, fellow incumbent Maria Leon-Vazquez, who is running for her 6th term, invested the least effort into fundraising. Leon-Vazquez only reported $750, including four donations and a $300 personal loan. Meanwhile, newcomer Jen Smith collected 68 donations for a total of $18,015.
“Since I’ve been deeply involved in schools for so long I’ve met a lot of people and parents in the District and it’s been an overwhelming feeling when I call people I’ve been working with for many years and they say ‘oh I’m so excited that you’re running’ and so they have been willing to give,” said Smith.
In addition to donations, several candidates contributed their own money to their campaigns. Kean invested $2,500, Johnson invested $2,200, and Coleman invested $750.
“I’ve been busy appearing at forums, I hosted two zoom events, and I’m answering questionnaires,” said John Kean. “All of this is to get out my message defining my accomplishments over the past four years and sharing my goals for the next four. Fundraising is just one way of providing a medium to communicate your message to the voters of Santa Monica and Malibu.”
In this unusual election season where in-person events and canvassing are unsafe, spending on advertisements and communication campaigns is more important than ever. This is especially the case for the newcomers as they must fight to share their name and message with the public for the first time.
“Because of social distancing, some of the traditional campaign tactics (handing out flyers at the grocery store, walking the neighborhoods and knocking on doors, volunteers stuffing envelopes), aren’t really available to the grassroots candidate. With a very competitive election locally and nationally, digital and print advertising is going to be more expensive than in past election cycles,” said Steven Johnson.
Johnson raised the 3rd most money out all the candidates, but trails fellow newcomer Jen Smith by $13,794. While Smith is a first-time candidate she received several donations from elected officials, including $500 from Board member Laurie Lieberman, $500 from Councilwoman Gleam Davis, $100 from Board member Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, and $100 from Councilman Ted Winterer.
Johnson and Smith both received endorsements from the Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers this week as did incumbents Leon-Vazquez and Kean.
“This endorsement is really important to me, not only because the teacher layoffs this past spring were my wake up call, but because I am not an incumbent/insider, and I appreciate the Union looking beyond the status quo for new ideas and new approaches,” said Johnson.
This endorsement is particularly important as it represents the opinion of the educators that Board members will spend the duration of their term working with.
“We believe all four candidates possess a strong commitment to public education, to our students, and our educators,” said SMMCTA president Sarah Braff. “We believe in their assurance of supporting our teachers in their goals of providing an excellent, equitable education to all of our students.”