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Candidates Set for School Board Races

Phil Brock For Council 2014

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Michael Feinstein for Santa Monica City Council 2014Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors BureauWhen one lives in a city as breathtakingly beautiful and unique as Santa Monica, inevitably that city will be shared with visitors.

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

August 18, 2014 -- For the first time in six years, the November election will feature competitive contests for both school boards in Santa Monica. There are seven candidates competing for four seats in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD). Six people are in the contest for four Santa Monica College (SMC) seats.

The past two elections did not include competitive races for the SMC board because there were only as many candidates as seats on the line. The deadline to enter both school board contests as well as the City Council and Rent Control Board races was Wednesday.

Competing for the SMMUSD board are incumbents Laurie Lieberman, Oscar de la Torre and Ralph Mechur as well as challengers Craig Foster, Dhun May, Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein and Patricia Finer. 

At least one new person will be elected because current member Nimish Patel decided he would not run for a second term. (“Santa Monica School Board Member Will Not Seek Reelection” June 24, 2014)

Six of the seven candidates are Santa Monica residents.

Foster, who unsuccessfully ran in 2012, is attempting to become the first Malibu resident to sit on the board since Kathy Wisnicki decided not to run for a second term in 2008. (“Malibu Resident Announces Candidacy for School Board” July 11, 2014)

The coveted Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) endorsements have gone to Lieberman, de la Torre, Mechur and Tahvildaran-Jesswein. Only two candidates in the past 10 years have won an SMMUSD seat without SMRR’s backing.

Incumbents also do well in SMMUSD races. In the past 20 years, the only unsuccessful re-election bids were made by Brenda Gottfried in 2002, Shane McLoud in 2006 and Barry Snell in 2010.

Lieberman was the top-vote getter by a significant margin in 2010. She received 17,985 votes in her first run for public office, which placed her nearly 2,200 votes ahead of runner-up de la Torre. He was elected to his third term.

Mechur placed third in 2010, in what was his first competitive election. He was appointed to the board in 2007 to replace Emily Bloomfield after she moved to Washington D.C. Mechur ran unopposed the next year in a special election to maintain the seat.

Rounding out the winners in 2010 was Patel. He was followed on the results list by incumbent Snell and Patrick Cady, a Malibu resident and former Santa Monica High School teacher.

With Cady’s loss in 2010, Malibu was guaranteed at least another two years without a resident on the board. This was repeated two years later when a trio of Malibu candidates that included Foster failed to finish among the top three candidates who won seats.

Winning a seat on the school board is not an impossible feat for a Malibu resident. Wisnicki last did it 10 years ago. When she stepped down in 2008 after not running for re-election, it marked the first time since 1980 that no Malibu resident was on the board.

The college board race features four incumbents -- Nancy Greenstein, Louise Jaffe, Andrew Walzer and Snell, who was appointed earlier this year to fill a vacancy. Walzer was the lone incumbent who did not receive SMRR’s backing. The organization is supporting three candidates, despite the race being for four seats.

The other competitors are Dennis Frisch and Maria Loya, who is the wife of de la Torre.

Fifteen people have filed to run for three seats on the City Council. City Clerk Sarah Gorman told The Lookout she expects the candidates list to be finalized early next week after all the papers have been verified.

There will be no competitive election for the Rent Control Board because only three people filed for the three-seat contest. Incumbent Todd Flora and newcomers Steve Duron and Nicole Phillis are running unopposed.

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