The ballot for the Nov. 5 La Cañada Unified school board election is crowded: Eight candidates are vying for three open seats, with some of the candidates choosing to run their campaigns on shoestring budgets.
David Sagal, an attorney and executive for Warner Bros., leads the race in campaign contributions. He received $13,763 as of Oct. 24, according to finance disclosure forms filed with the Los Angeles county clerk's office. Sagal also is the candidate who has spent the most money on his campaign: $7,288.
Kaitzer Puglia, an educator and wife of Valley Sun columnist Joe Puglia, received $5,754, while Urban Fitness Pilates Studio owner Jennifer Rubendall banked $4,160. Dan Jeffries, a prosecutor with the Los Angeles City Attorney's office, loaned himself $4,852.
Joel Peterson, the only incumbent running for reelection, put $2,500 of his own money into the campaign. He spent $4,563 on campaign literature and print advertising. Incumbents Susan Boyd and Scott Tracy have chosen not to seek reelection.
Karyn Riel, a Los Angeles school counselor, raised $1,699 in cash donations from herself and family members. Ian Mirisola and Kevork Kurdoghlian have both filed forms for candidates who do not plan to raise more than $1,000.
“We knew we would need financial support to help get the word out about the campaign,” Sagal said in an email. “We are very grateful to all of our supporters for making financial contributions, as well as contributing their time and effort.”
Former assemblyman Anthony Portantino gave $500 to Sagal through his committee for a 2016 state Senate campaign. Sagal also received donations from City Councilman Jon Curtis and La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation President Craig Mazin.
With issues like the possible transfer of the area of the city known as Sagebrush from the Glendale Unified School District to the La Cañada Unified School District and the discussion of the parcel tax on the table, this year's election has been closely watched by parents in the community.
Three people under the age of 30 also entered the race, a rarity for local elections. Board member Andrew Blumenfeld, who won a seat during the last election while a student at Princeton University, appeared to inspire the young candidates.
Peterson, who has run a campaign touting his experience, has been scrutinized. The school board recently sought legal advice on a possible conflict of interest regarding Peterson owning and operating a for-profit tutoring company while serving on the school board. The issue came up during an election forum at La Cañada High School.
Endorsements from community leaders have varied.
Puglia was supported by Mary Gant, a former president of the Kiwanis Club of La Cañada, and local businessman Charbel “Charlie” Kamar.
Mayor Laura Olhasso gave $100 to Jennifer Rubendall. The Cañada Crescenta Democratic Club is endorsing Jeffries and Mirisola. Boyd is endorsing Puglia, Sagal and Rubendall.
Jeffries said that he didn't seek donations from the community because he would rather residents give money to the schools.
“I think the reason I chose not the collect money is if people really want to support our schools, they should be donating to the Educational Foundation or the PTA,” he said.
Jeffries said he visited many neighbors on foot. “I think I knocked on just about every street in La Cañada,” he said.
All of the residents were interested in discussing the district's key issues, he added.
Kurdoghlian, who turns 19 the day before the election, said he thinks it's “absurd” to raise $10,000-$20,000 for a local office.
He said he raised around $995 for his campaign to purchase yard signs, business cards, campaign literature and Facebook ads. The latter helped him reach parents and family friends on the social network, he said. Kurdoghlian has received endorsements from Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian and former school board member Ron Dietel.
“People have been extremely encouraging,” he said. “They're happy to see me running.”
There are 13,150 registered La Cañada voters within school district boundaries, with 5,004 registered to vote by mail, according to date provided by the county clerk's office. Polling places are open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
[Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story stated that Andrew Blumenfeld attended Pepperdine University. This is incorrect. Blumenfeld attended Princeton.]