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SMRR Endorses Incumbents in Santa Monica School, College Board Races

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By Ivette Lopez
For the Lookout

August 4 2014 -- All but two of the incumbents in the races for School and College boards won the support of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) at the powerful group’s convention Sunday.

In the race for four open School Board seats, incumbents Ralph Mechur, Oscar De La Torre and Laurie Lieberman, along with SMRR Co-Chair Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, won the group’s endorsement in the first round of voting.

Incumbent Nimish Patel, the only candidate in ten years to win a School Board seat without the group’s backing, is not seeking re-election.

In the race for four open College Board seats, incumbents Nancy Greenstein and Barry Snell won the group’s endorsement, while Louise Jaffe failed to win an endorsement on her bid for re-election.

The John Adams Middle School cafeteria was packed to capacity with some of the 450 SMRR members in attendance instructed to sit on outside benches to listen as candidates asked for their backing.

“To get the endorsement of the most progressive organization with the most progressive platform is a great feeling,” de La Torre told the Lookout. “Today showed the beauty of Santa Monica’s diversity and the democratic process.”

Tahvildaran-Jesswein, who is currently on leave as SMRR's co-chair, said he was happy with the turnout and process of the convention.
“This is the most important endorsement to me, next to the parents and the district,” Tahviladaran-Jesswein said. “I’m looking forward to working hard and running a campaign that really focuses on the joy of learning.”

Incumbent Lieberman attributes her endorsement to her previous work with the school board.

“I’m very pleased to have been endorsed today,” Lieberman said. “I think people understand my values and understand that I’ve made a significant contribution to the school board and therefore support my re-election.”

Mechur also welcomed the group’s endorsement in his re-election bid. “It’s really great for people to honor the work that I and other school board members have been doing,” he said.

In the College Board race, Greenstein won with 244 votes, while Snell took 232 of the 450 votes cast in the first round of voting. 

“I feel very humble and proud,” Snell said. “The community supported me and believes that my experience and commitment to education is important.”

Greenstein, a UCLA professor supported by City Council candidate Kevin McKeown during her introductory speech, spent 14 years as the organization’s co-chair.

“If my organization didn’t support me I would have been heartbroken,” Greenstein told the Lookout. “We know that the college is not an isolated entity, but part of the fabric of the community.”

With SMRR's endorsement comes a well-funded campaign along with a sophisticated get-out-the-vote operation. In the past ten years, only one non-SMRR endorsee has won a seat on the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees.

Incumbents Jaffe and Andrew Walzer, as well as SMRR Steering Committee member Maria Loya and former Santa Monica College professor Dennis Frisch, fell short of the required 55 percent needed to receive an endorsement at Sunday’s convention.

Endorsement for the remaining seats could be made by SMRR’s steering committee, although candidates chosen in this way cannot campaign as SMMR endorsees. Their names and photos, however, would still appear on the group’s campaign literature.

It is expected that Loya, who is a member of the organization's Steering Committee, will recuse herself from the vote.  News of further endorsements is expected within the upcoming week.

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