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Meister Withdraws from School Board Race

By Jorge Casuso

August 14 – After failing to win two key endorsements in the race for three open full-term seats on the School Board, Judith Meister has pulled out of the race, The Lookout has learned.

Meister’s move to withdraw her name from the ballot Wednesday leaves four candidates – including incumbents Maria Leon Vazquez and Jose Escarce – vying for three seats on the board. Incumbent Ralph Mechur is running unopposed to serve the final two years of an appointed term.

“It seemed that the timing wasn’t right for me this time,” Meister told The Lookout. “There were several key endorsements I didn’t get, which was disappointing. I was being realistic about what it would take.”

Meister failed to win the key endorsements of the Teachers Union and Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), the city’s powerful tenants group. In 2006, SMRR-backed candidates swept all the seats and on School and College boards.

It seemed Meister could pose a strong challenge after Escarce failed to win SMRR’s endorsement at the group’s convention August 3, when members gave the nod to Mechur, Vazquez and newcomer Ben Allen, a former student regent for the University of California system. (“SMRR Endorses Genser, Bloom; Escarce, Meister Fall Short for School Board Nod,” August 3, 2008)

“I had thought I had a pretty good shot without the SMRR endorsement,” Meister said. “It had kept things open,” she said of the group's endorsement of only two candidates.

But six days after the convention, SMRR’s steering committee made an unusual, and perhaps unprecedented move, and endorsed Escarce, who had fallen a vote short of winning the membership’s backing at the convention. (“Escarce Wins Late SMRR Nod,” August 11, 2008)

Escarce also won the strong backing of the Teachers Union, which also endorsed Vazquez, Allen and Mechur.

“I was disappointed at not getting the teacher’s endorsement,” said Meister, who recently finished a two-year term as PTA president at Santa Monica High School. “It was a shock. I was such a supporter.

“It seemed that the momentum was with the other candidates,” she said. “It’s politics, and politics doesn’t always have to do with qualifications.”

Mounting an independent candidacy would have been difficult during a hotly contested presidential race that could draw a record turnout, Meister said.

“It’s a different election than normal as far as what you have to do to win,” she said. “I thought it was better to step back now.”

Meister’s withdrawal leaves the two incumbents and newcomers Allen and Chris Bley in the race for three seats. Incumbent Kathy Wisnicki chose not to run for re-election, extending the deadline to submit nominating petitions until August 13. No other potential candidates submitted papers by the 5:30 p.m. deadline.

Meister has not discounted running for a seat two years from now and says she plans to stay active as a parent and education advocate, pushing for long-term funding for Samohi and “education reform”.

“I do know I have a lot of support in the community, and people will be disappointed” with the decision to drop out of the race, Meister said.

“I’m still going to be as active as I can be,” she said. “My commitment is there, and I think I can be effective.”


“It seemed that the timing wasn’t right for me this time.” Judith Meister


“I was disappointed at not getting the teacher’s endorsement.”


“It’s politics, and politics doesn’t always have
to do with qualifications.”


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