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Mayor Bloom Set for Assembly Run  

By Ann K. Williams
Lookout Staff

May 17, 2011 – While it's not exactly been a state secret in Santa Monica, Mayor Richard Bloom's run for a seat in the California Assembly was confirmed last week when he emailed an invitation to a June campaign kick-off fundraiser.

Saturday, Mayor Bloom spent some time talking with The Lookout about his political background and aspirations.

“I'm really concerned about the issues facing us,” Bloom said. “I hope to play a valuable role in helping us resolve those issues and move the state forward.”

He said that he hopes to tackle the polarization that's gridlocked California's legislature by bringing his skills as a consensus builder to bear, as he promotes sustainability, education and the protection of the least privileged members of society.

Bloom's progressive agenda should come as no surprise to residents of Santa Monica, where he's become known for his stands on regional homeless solutions, education and the environment during the nearly 12 years he's sat on the city council where he's served as mayor three times.

But some locals may not be as familiar with Bloom's early background in politics.

“I was the 'assemblies commissioner' in the 7th or 8th grade,” he recalled – that was the student who helped with school assemblies, not “the Assembly.”

Bloom said he maintained an active interest in politics throughout his education in the 1960's, inspired by his parents' example.

“My mom and dad were always big on community service, even though we disagreed sometimes,” he said, calling them his “number one influence.”

A close second was Council member Ken Genser, a seasoned Santa Monica politician by the time Bloom won a seat on the dais in 1999. Bloom became clearly emotional as he recalled Genser's influence.

“Ken Genser taught me lesson after lesson about how to be a leader,” Bloom said. Often Bloom would pick up cues from Genser's body language.

“He'd cast a glance, a shrug of his shoulder, a twinkle in his eye, and I knew what he was thinking” Bloom said.

“He taught me how to be, how to act,” in the political sphere and beyond, Bloom said.

But Bloom's political education in Santa Monica preceded his time on the dais.

In the late 1980's an “upstart” neighborhood group, Friends of Sunset Park, was formed to take on traffic and parking issues, he said. Bloom became the group's president and got to know Genser and Council member and Sunset Park resident Herb Katz.

“I learned to resolve conflict instead of butting heads,” he said, as he developed his skills by working with people with opposing views.

And after he decided to run for city council – an idea that at first seemed “outlandish” – Bloom said he learned a lesson no politician wants to learn, but a very valuable one.

He learned how to lose.

“I got my butt whipped,” he said of his first election in 1996. In 1998, he lost by 100 votes, and finally in a special election in 1999, he won.

“Losing isn't all bad,” Bloom said. “It builds character. It taught me patience, persistence...I had time to think about what I had to do (to achieve) victory.”

Once on the council, Bloom developed a political style as a consensus builder, a style he said he learned as a family law attorney.

He said he developed the ability by “sitting down with people with the most intractable emotional, divisive issues possible, people with children, in a state of crisis, where it was almost impossible to get to a plan that best meets everybody's needs” said Bloom.

Bloom described the scene in Sacramento as a more elaborate version of the same kind of family dynamic – “120 legislators and a governor...a very complicated landscape,” but one in which he's confident that his skills will be effective.

“While it's daunting, it doesn't intimidate,” he said.

Bloom said he's impressed by many of California's lawmakers and is confident that effective legislation is well within the realm of possibility.

And while he's leaving Santa Monica government “with a degree of sadness,” Bloom said he's certain that he's making the right move, for himself and for the city.

“I don't think it can be emphasized enough that the health of the state economy is critical to local government,” he said. Building up California will “be good in turn for cities across the state.”

On a personal level, although leaving home four days a week “still gives me some pause,” Bloom said his wife Robbie has been entirely supportive of his decision.

“This is what you want so we'll make it work,” he said she's told him. “Robbie always keeps me balanced, she's my sounding board.”

For now, though, it's going to be time-consuming enough to try to raise enough money to win the primary and November elections.

The last time the 41st Assembly district seat was open, current Assemblymember Julia Brownley raised some $700,000 and her opponent raised $1.2 million, Bloom said, so he looks at this as “a million dollar race.”

As of Monday, two other candidates have thrown their hats into the ring, Republican Terry Rathbun, a veteran of the first Iraq war who owns a small IT business, and Democrat Torie Osborn, a 25-year Santa Monica resident who led the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and who has advised Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on homelessness, poverty and economic development.

Before the candidates face off, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission is scheduled to submit proposed maps showing any changes in the boundaries of the state's legislative districts. Once the maps have cleared the state's justice department, they'll come before the voters, most likely in November or June. It remains to be seen what effect that may have on the various candidates' races.


“I learned to resolve conflict instead of butting heads.” Richard Bloom

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