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NEWS ANALYSIS: SMRR Endorsements and Presidential Politics

By Cindy Frazier
Senior Writer

August 3 -- There is an interesting theory floating around in the wake of the jettisoning of Green Party leader Mike Feinstein from the Santa Monicans for Renters Rights (SMRR) slate in the upcoming municipal elections.

This theory holds that SMRR leaders who turned their backs on Feinstein -- a top vote-getter in two previous runs for City Council on the tenants’ rights ticket -- did so to shore up the Democratic presidential candidates against another inroad by Ralph Nader.

Nader -- one of the founders of the Green Party -- is not running this time as a Green, but has joined with the Green Party’s Peter Camejo as the Independent choice for president and vice-president. The Independents are in a race to get on the ballot in 40 states.

Democrats worry that if the presidential election in November is as tight a race as it was in 2000, then Nader could again become a factor -- possibly swinging the election again to George W. Bush and the Republicans.

Republicans are quite aware of the ability of Nader to siphon votes from Democratic candidates and stories abound that Republicans have bank-rolled -- or attempted to bank-roll -- Nader as a “spoiler” candidate over the years.

Given this national backdrop, it was telling that the drumbeat at the SMRR convention on Sunday was for “loyalty, loyalty, loyalty” and “unity, unity, unity.”

SMRR co-chair Denny Zane adamantly denies that presidential politics are part of the local equation, and points to his “hit piece” against Feinstein as proof that he has other reasons to want his former compatriot off the SMRR ticket.

This letter, distributed at the convention, attacks Feinstein for refusing to support SMRR’s choices in the 2002 city elections. Zane accuses Feinstein of orchestrating the defeat of SMRR’s top vote-getter in the endorsement race, Abby Arnold -- who lost out on a council seat by a mere 160 votes -- by supporting a fellow Green, Josefina Aranda, over Arnold.

It apparently doesn’t occur to Zane that Arnold might have lost the race on her own account.

If disloyalty to SMRR wasn’t enough to sway members against Feinstein, Zane goes on to club the candidate with an old allegation of financial misconduct within his local Green Party – an accusation which has been investigated and dismissed by law enforcement, but which still festers.

The question raised, of course, is one of trust.

And the larger question looming in the background in this presidential season: can a Green be trusted not to vote Green if push comes to shove?

Feinstein says that one of the questions he was asked during an interview for the SMRR endorsement was, “Who will you vote for for president?”

His answer? Nader -- with the caveat that, if Bush had a chance of winning in California, he’d cast his vote for the Democrat.

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