La Jolla investor, philanthropist, and charter school advocate R.B. “Buzz” Woolley came up with a disappointing loss last week when his chosen candidate for state superintendent of public instruction, Democratic state senator Gloria Romero, placed third, thereby missing the November runoff. Back in December Woolley gave Romero’s campaign $6500. Friends and associates kicked in almost $15,000 more. Romero also received at least $1,412,248 worth of support from EdVoice, an organization backed by Woolley, along with Netflix founder Reed Hastings and Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad. The group favors more charter schools, as well as linking the pay and performance of public school teachers, as measured by standardized tests. In her campaign for state schools chief, Romero, who garnered 17.2 percent of the vote, was pitted against ex–public school administrator Larry Aceves, who came in first with 18.8 percent, and termed-out Democratic state assemblyman Tom Torlakson, who got 18 percent. Minor candidates received the rest. Aceves, who was endorsed by the Los Angeles Times, was backed by his fellow school administrators. Torlakson was favored by the California Teachers Association.
Woolley and his colleagues also lost out in several state assembly races where EdVoice spent heavily in an attempt to elect presumed charter school advocates. In the 50th District Democratic primary, South Gate city clerk and ex-teacher Carmen Avalos was defeated by Ricardo Lara, 43.6 percent to 30.6 percent. A graduate of San Diego State, Lara is a longtime Democratic legislative staffer. In March, EdVoice filed a lawsuit that forced Lara, a member of L.A. County’s Consumer Affairs Advisory Commission, to change his ballot designation from “consumer affairs commissioner” to “communications director,” the salaried position he currently holds for Assemblyman Kevin de León.
EdVoice also lost in the 28th District Democratic contest between its pick, Salinas city council member Janet Barnes, who got 35.3 percent versus 52.3 percent for Watsonville mayor Luis Alejo. In that race, EdVoice partnered with the California Farm Bureau to spend a total of $302,544 as of May 22. In the 20th District Democratic primary, EdVoice’s choice was Ohlone College trustee and ex-Republican Garrett Yee, who also lost, getting 47.8 percent to attorney and Fremont city councilman Bob Wieckowski’s 52.2 percent. EdVoice did manage to score a victory in the 5th assembly district Democratic primary, where physician Richard Pan got 44 percent versus 26.3 percent for Larry Miles, a former vice president and general counsel for car dealer Cal Worthington. According to state filings, EdVoice’s independent expenditure committee spent a total of $58,662 on opposition research and a hit piece against Miles.