L.A. school board member Nick Melvoin to run for Adam Schiff’s seat

Schiff, who announced he is running for Senate, has represented the district for more than two decades

Nick Melvoin for School Board 2021

Nick Melvoin

Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-CA) announcement last Thursday that he will seek the Senate seat currently held by Democrat Dianne Feinstein sets off a race in the state’s 30th Congressional District, where L.A. Unified School District board member Nick Melvoin filed papers to run earlier this month.

“My main calling is, how do I amplify my impact for the communities that I fought really my whole adult life for, in a larger setting?” Melvoin, a Democrat, told Jewish Insider in a recent interview. A Los Angeles native, Melvoin taught middle school through Teach for America before going to law school and mounting a successful bid for a seat on the school board in a 2017 upset. Melvoin, a charter school advocate, defeated an incumbent in a race with heavy outside spending.

The seat hasn’t been open for more than two decades; Schiff was first elected in 2000. The former California state senator garnered national attention in 2019 as one of the House Democrats responsible for managing the first impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.

“We’re seeing what’s happening in Washington, both with the changing of the guard on the Democratic side with a new leader, but also the craziness that we saw [last week],” Melvoin, 37, said, referring to the 15 rounds of voting that it took to elect a House speaker. “I do think there’s a need for new voices, younger voices, people who can work across lines of difference and not be burdened by the politics of yesterday.”

One reason he’s entering the race is in response to the recent “rise in antisemitism, pro-BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] on university campuses, the ethnic studies curriculum that we’ve been fighting in L.A., as a progressive and a strong Zionist,” said Melvoin, who is Jewish. “In Congress, I don’t see as many of those candidates, especially in the Democratic Party, as I would like.” 

Melvoin was referring to a lengthy statewide debate over a proposed model ethnic studies curriculum, early iterations of which praised the BDS movement and did not educate about antisemitism. Similar debates have played out in LAUSD, the nation’s second-largest school district. 

“I also think not unlike what’s happening in America in the last few years, we have a government in Israel that I think a lot of us, particularly those on the Democratic side and slightly more progressive side, are not particularly fond of, but making sure that that doesn’t undermine [Israel’s] bipartisan support is really important,” said Melvoin. “There are other issues, education actually used to be one of them, that I think used to have a bipartisan consensus. And now our polarization has made it very entrenched.”

The race in the 30th District, which stretches from West Hollywood to Pasadena, has already drawn significant interest. Nine candidates have filed paperwork to run, including actor Ben Savage, who mounted an unsuccessful bid for the West Hollywood City Council last year, State Del. Laura Friedman and entrepreneur Josh Bocanegra. 

In California’s so-called “jungle primaries,” the top two vote-getters advance to the general election potentially setting up two Democrats to face off in November.

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