Unelected incumbent candidate Keith Coleman, who has sat on the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) Board of Education since January 2021, announced on Friday afternoon that he would be dropping out of the race to retain his seat.

Coleman cited personal reasons for withdrawing his candidacy in an email shared with the Daily Press.

“This morning, I made the painstaking decision to withdraw from the race for Santa Monica-Malibu School Board in this November’s election,” Coleman wrote. “As I am unexpectedly relocating an ailing, elderly relative to Santa Monica – and becoming their primary caregiver – my priority and focus at this time must be their health and wellbeing.”

Coleman was appointed to the School Board early last year to fill a vacancy left by Oscar de la Torre, a longtime member who departed the School District’s governing board following a successful race for Santa Monica City Council. His appointment followed an unsuccessful bid for the seat in the November 2020 election, in which he came second runner up behind another candidate, Jason Feldman. 

The timing of Coleman’s departure from the race, coming after he qualified for the election, means his name will still appear on the November ballot, but he will not be campaigning.

Coleman’s decision not to run to retain his school board seat comes after another incumbent, Malibu’s Craig Foster, also announced he would not be seeking re-election. Foster, who pulled nomination paperwork but did not submit it, will not appear on the ballot.

The departure of both Foster and Coleman from the race have opened up two of four seats up for grabs in November. Incumbents Laurie Lieberman and Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein will be campaigning to retain their positions on the board, with five additional candidates in the running: parent/business owner Angela DiGaetano, conflict specialist/director of operation Stacy Rouse, Businesswoman/SMMUSD mom Alicia Mignano, parent/educational volunteer Esther Hickman and parent/business owner Miles Warner.

“It has been an honor to serve on the School Board and to help move the needle for a more equitable and inclusive school environment,” Coleman wrote in his email announcing his withdrawal from the School Board race. “I will serve out the remainder of my term and hope eventually to have the capacity to become involved again in our wonderful school community.”

emily@smdp.com