Let the frantic fundraising begin.
That's the inside scoop following word that San Diego school-board Democrat Marne Foster has resigned her seat after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor political-reform act violation related to solicitation of cash for her son's tuition.
According to TV reports, besides having to quit, Foster got 120 hours of community service along with three years of probation and will have to make restitution of $3487 for an illegal travel gift benefiting her son.
The investigation leading to the criminal count against Foster had earlier resulted in the suspension of an internal district probe of the boardmember regarding charges she had pressured superintendent Cindy Marten to remove School of Creative and Performing Arts principal Mitzi Lizarraga, who had reportedly resisted a host of Foster's improper efforts at the school on behalf of her son.
Then last month, guidance counselor Kim Abagat filed suit against the district, charging she was targeted for retaliation after authoring a negative appraisal of Foster's offspring.
With Foster now out of the way, it remains to be seen how the district's internal investigation of her transgressions will proceed.
But the vacancy could lead to a costly electoral struggle between the school teachers’ union and self-styled education-reform advocates allied with Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad, said to still be interested in buying the Los Angeles Times and its sister San Diego Union-Tribune.
Late last month, LaShae Collins, district director for state Assembly Democrat and ex–school-board-member Shirley Weber, launched her bid for the District E seat, claiming the endorsements of Weber, Assembly speaker Toni Atkins and city councilwoman Myrtle Cole, according to a January 25 Union-Tribune report.
Now the question is whether a Republican will emerge, and whether the Broad-allied forces find a candidate of either party to their liking.
In 2012, Foster's opponent was Bill Ponder, who received heavy financial backing from an array of those pitted against the teachers’ union, including La Jolla investor and charter-school proponent Buzz Woolley, chairman of the nonprofit news website Voice of San Diego, who kicked in $15,000 to the Alliance for Quality Education in support of Ponder for school board, disclosure records showed.
Woolley has also been a backer of efforts to ban use of payroll-withheld union dues in political campaigns, giving $10,000 to 2012’s state Proposition 32.
Other contributors to the Ponder side of the race included CAC Advisory Services LLC, a firm run by Rod Dammeyer, an investor and charter-school advocate of Rancho Santa Fe, which gave $40,500.
Sacramento-based California Charter Schools Association Advocates Independent Expenditure Committee added $25,000 to the Ponder effort.
Big money from the teachers’ union and wealthy private sources has frequently clashed in past San Diego school politics.
Dammeyer and Democratic Qualcomm billionaire Irwin Jacobs financed an ultimately unsuccessful ballot bid to add more members to the school board in 2011. In 2002, the Jacobs-supported San Diego schools chief Alan Bersin enjoyed the dark-money support of L.A.'s Broad.
So far, the only campaign finance filings for this year’s District E race have been made by Foster.
According to an August 11, 2015, disclosure, the soon-to-resign school boardmember raised $3320 for her reelection campaign during the first half of last year, including $250 from fellow boardmember Richard Barrera.
Up for reelection this year, Barrera announced last month he was leaving his position as secretary-treasurer of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council to become executive assistant and secretary-treasurer of the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 135, long a major money player in local politics.