Santa Monica Incumbents Defeat Malibu Challengers

UPDATED 5:30 a.m.: Voters select three out of six candidates for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education and approve Measure ES, which is needed for improvements at Santa Monica High School.

Santa Monica residents and incumbents kept their seats from opponents in Malibu and a ballot measure to fund campus improvements across the district passed, according to final results posted Wednesday morning.

The three incumbents—Ben Allen, Maria Leon-Vazquez and Jose Escarce, who all live in Santa Monica—held onto an early lead overnight.

"I hope that my returns stay the way they are," Allen said before the final results were out on Tuesday night. “And I hope the Proposition 30 returns get better. Honestly I think it [not passing] will make life on the school board very difficult.”

The Malibu candidates—Craig Foster, Karen Farrer and Seth Jacobson—ran on a reform slate. Election results were slow to trickle in, and early on Tuesday night, Foster was only 100 votes behind Escarce. He called the race "unpredictable" after the first round of results came out.

"I’m only going to wait and see what happens," Escarce said. "It will go one way or the other."

The slate said they would task the superintendent with increasing student achievement in schools across the district, reduce class sizes and close the achievement gap between different demographic groups. They have said they will pay for their ideas by reducing what they see as administrative bureaucracy and creating an independent Malibu School District.

Dense fog delayed reporting of the results, according to county officials. Helicopters carrying ballots to be counted in Norwalk were grounded late Tuesday at the Puente Hills

Mall in the City of Industry and the ballots had to be trucked in on the ground. Though absentee votes were released shortly after the polls closed at 8 p.m., more results were not released until the early morning Wednesday, confirming the incumbents' victories.

Trailing narrowly early on, Foster was optimistic Tuesday night.

"I am happy that with so few votes in, it is pretty close," Foster said. "We hope as more ballots are counted we gain ground."

Measure ES, a $385 million bond measure that would raise property taxes to fund campus and technology improvements, handily won with 67.7 percent approval. It needed 55 percent to pass.

On Tuesday night before the final results were in, Allen said he was encouraged by the vote.

"I'm just happy it is looking this strong at this stage," he said.


Candidate Votes % Ben Allen 17,889 24.57 Karen Farrer 9,305 12.78 Craig Foster 11,653 16.01 Seth Jacobson 6,859 9.42 Jose Escarce 12,803 17.59 Maria Leon-Vazquez 14,294 19.63

Allen has said he will set high academic expectations and standards, look to preserve programs that are at the core of the district such as art and athletics and address the needs of both Malibu and Santa Monica.

Leon-Vazquez has said she will work to create a culture of inclusion and trust among all families, modernize school facilities, increase revenue through district-wide fundraising and close the achievement gap.

Escarce has said he will seek to preserve programs while balancing the budget, promote teachers' professional development and strengthen intervention programs.


Measure ES Votes % Yes 21,981 67.73 No 10,472 32.27

Measure ES is meant to provide a portion of more than $1 billion of needed improvements at schools in Santa Monica and Malibu, according to assessments by the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. 

Nearly $500 million is needed for improvements at Santa Monica High School. Twenty percent of the funds are slated to go toward Malibu schools.

At elementary schools across the district about $93 million is needed to replace temporary classrooms with permanent ones.

patti braun November 07, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Many thanks to those in our two cities who helped us pass Measure ES with 67.7%! Our SMMUSD schools rank among the best in the nation; thank you for supporting academic achievement by voting in ES to repair, upgrade and modernize the sites. Your passion for our local public schools, and your advocacy has once again allowed our kids to WIN! Patti Braun, Santa Monica-Malibu PTA Council President


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