School board candidate Ben Austin disqualified for invalid signature petitions

Ben Austin, who had secured the endorsements of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and downtown power players like Eli Broad, missed the ballot when his signature gatherer collected signatures for the wrong school board district.

“It’s fairly heartbreaking,” Austin said. “I really believe we can change things, and this is just heartbreaking.”

It is a major gaffe for political consultant Sue Burnside, a seasoned veteran of Los Angeles politics. Austin said Burnside has refused to return his calls, but he was clearly angry.

“It’s a one in a million thing. You hire a signature gathering firm just to deal with this one thing, and she blew it,” he said.
Burnside did not immediately return calls from Capitol Weekly seeking comment.

The Los Angeles City Clerk ruled Austin’s petition invalid Monday afternoon. According to the city charter, candidates must submit 500 valid signatures from registered voters in the district. Austin was seeking to run in the city’s Fourth school board district. Burnside apparently collected signatures from voters in the wrong district.

“She went through the entire validation process, but just did it all in the wrong district,” said Austin.

Austin said he is reviewing his options with his lawyers, but is all but resigned to being left off the ballot.

Villaraigosa has clashed mightily with the teachers unions since taking office. He attempted to gain more control over the district through legislation in Sacramento, but wound up with a watered-down version of his plan after strong objections from the UTLA.

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