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Latino Power Couple Running for Office in Santa Monica

Phil Brock For Council 2014

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By Daniel Larios
Staff Writer

July 17, 2014 – Oscar de la Torre and Maria Loya, one of the most politically active Latino couples in Santa Monica, both pulled papers to run for elected office Tuesday.

De la Torre, who heads the Pico Youth and Family Center, will be running for a fourth term on the School Board, while his wife Maria Loya, a member of the Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights steering committee, will seek a seat on the Santa Monica College Board.

Both are members of the board of the Pico Neighborhood Association, which represents the upscale beachside city’s poorest and most diverse community.

“There’s a lot of work to be done to close the achievement gap and my passion is to support young people in our community,” said de la Torre, who had contemplated a run for City Council.

“I want to continue to provide leadership and advocacy for residents, for students, for faculty and staff, as well as to make improvement in our overall quality of life,” he said.

De la Torre added that he’s running on a platform that includes “ensuring that our schools are environmentally safe, strengthening the culture that promotes college readiness and academic rigor, providing effective and culturally relevant curriculum and supporting programs for students who are struggling academically.”

De la Torre, who is the PNA’s co-chair, cited a number of reasons for not running for council, including the growing number of good candidates running for three open seats.

“There are some good new candidates like Richard McKinnon, Phil Brock, Sue Himmelrich and Jennifer Kennedy who have promised to support issues important to the Pico neighborhood,” de la Torre said.

“So I’m happy to continue to serve on the school board and allow residents to support candidates that will put voters first.”

He also cited Loya’s run for elected office. “I think she’s a great leader,” de la Torre said.  “In our family we committed ourselves to public service, and I didn’t want to distract from her campaign.”

Had he been elected to the council, de la Torre would have been only the second Latino in Santa Monica history to serve on the dais. The first, Councilmember Tony Vazquez, was reelected to the council in 2012 after losing his seat 18 years earlier.

Vazquez’s wife, Maria Leon-Vazquez, has been a member of the School Board since 2000.

Loya, currently the Vice Chair of the PNA, will be running for College Board after more than 20 years of political activism.

“My decision to run came from my lifelong commitment to help low income students have access to quality education and the fact that higher education is important to break the cycle of poverty within the community,” Loya told the Lookout. 

“I believe SMC can do more, by providing more support and access to students in Santa Monica and Malibu.  I think SMC can do better in their partnership with Santa Monica and be a better neighbor.”

Loya will be running on a platform that includes “creating access and opportunity, which means affordablility; creating an inclusive, culturally relevant curriculum; increasing student retention and supporting student success; and increasing graduation rates.”

Originally from Texas, Loya was part of an effort to preserve bilingual education in the Lone Star State before moving to Santa Monica.

“We were successful in Texas, and when I moved to Santa Monica, I helped lead an effort to change the disciplinary policies that targeted young men of color,” Loya said. 

“It was then that I helped found Mothers for Justice, an advocacy organization founded after an incident at John Adams Middle School in which a Latino student received a criminal charge of assault with a deadly weapon, which were his fists, after a fight.”

Loya, who has been involved in political activism for more than 20 year and ran for City Council in 2008, has already picked up an endorsement from the Santa Monica College Faculty Association. 

She will also be seeking an endorsement from the City’s powerful tenant group Santa Monicans for Renters Rights as well as an endorsement from the new political group Residocracy.

“I’m looking forward to running a good campaign,” said Loya.  “We (Loya and de la Torre) both feel that education is a driving force and that education can make a difference, which is why we’re both involved in the education field. It’s a family affair.”

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