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McKeown Backs Two Challengers as He Seeks Fifth Santa Monica Council Term

Phil Brock For Council 2014

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and MarkHarding 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

July 22, 2014 -- Four-term Santa Monica City Councilmember Kevin McKeown wants to serve at least another four years on the dais and he would like two planning commissioners to join him.

This goal means there will be a hotly contested battle next month to determine the recipients of the coveted endorsements from the powerful political group Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights [SMRR].

McKeown became the first official candidate on Monday when the County certified his nomination papers. In making the announcement about his candidacy, he said he hopes Planning Commissioners Jennifer Kennedy and Sue Himmelrich are the other two people elected in the November contest for three seats.

Calling Kennedy and Himmelrich “experienced and trustworthy” people who will “represent residents, not special interests,” McKeown wrote in an email to the media that they “have pledged, like me, not to take developer or hotel campaign money.”

This statement is a not-so-subtle shot at Mayor Pam O’Connor, who is seeking a sixth term on the council and is a long-time nemesis of McKeown. While McKeown is a champion of slow-growth activists, O’Connor is seen by many of these people as a representative of developers.

McKeown and O’Connor are expected to seek the SMRR endorsement at the August 3 convention. Both candidates have received the group’s backing in all their previous elections.

A SMRR endorsement is almost essential for getting elected in this city. The organization has a large budget to campaign for its chosen candidates and many residents vote for everybody on the SMRR slate.

The only current local officeholders who were elected without SMRR’s backing are Councilmember Bob Holbrook and school board member Nimish Patel. Holbrook is up for re-election this year, but he has not announced whether he would seek a seventh term.

To get the SMRR endorsement, candidates need enough supporters to show up at the convention. All members can vote as long as they pay the membership fees and attend the event. There have been accusations in previous years of people encouraging supporters to join SMRR specifically so they help certain candidates win endorsements.

It is too late to do anymore recruiting this year. The deadline to join SMRR and vote at the convention was in April, sources say.

To earn an endorsement, a candidate must receive support from at least 55 percent of the members in attendance. If fewer than three council candidates meet this threshold, then the group’s steering committee can add additional candidates to the organization’s slate

Fourteen people have pulled papers for the November council election, which is the first step toward becoming an official candidate. Most of the people who pulled papers are expected to run.

Those who have pulled papers in addition to the people noted above are Whitney Scott Bain, Parks and Recreation Commission Chair Phil Brock, former Mayor Mike Feinstein, anti-Santa Monica Airport activist and former Lookout columnist Frank Gruber, Planning Commissioner Richard McKinnon, Ken Robin, peace activist Jerry Rubin, Nick Boles, Jon Mann and Terence Later.

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