Santa Monica Lookout
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Santa Monica Election Season Kicks Off

Phil Brock For Council 2014

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Frank Gruber for Santa Monica City CouncilHarding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau

By Daniel Larios
Staff Writer

September 2, 2014 – For millions of Americans, Labor Day marked the end of summer, a day off to enjoy the final stretch of warm weather before welcoming the cool fall breezes. 

But for Santa Monica political candidates, it marked the traditional start of what promises to be a heated campaign, a time for deploying mailers, phone banks and precinct walkers to the more than 62,000 registered voters in the bayside city.

While the campaign season has officially been going on for close to two months, the upcoming nine weeks will see a plethora of political activity, especially this month, when powerful political groups will finalize their slates. It all started this week.

On Labor Day, the Coalition of Santa Monica City Employees PAC announced it is endorsing  Mayor Pam O’Connor, City Council member Kevin McKeown and former Mayor Michael Feinstein for the three vacant seats on the City Council.

“These candidates are the best choices for Santa Monica, not simply because of their established record on issues that the community cares about, but also because their vision for Santa Monica includes our members as an integral part,” said Coalition President Lauralee Asch,.

The PAC represents 1,600 non-sworn City employees organized into ten separate associations and unions. The PAC does not include the Police NS Firefighters Unions, which will make separate endorsements.

On Wednesday, the Santa Monica Democratic Club will vote to endorse candidates for City Council, Santa Monica College Trustees, Santa Monica School Board and Rent Control Board at the Santa Monica Main Library at 6:30 p.m.

Last Friday, the club’s executive committee released a list of their recommended candidates for endorsement to club members.

“The executive committee interviewed the Democrats who are running for local office in person between last Saturday and Thursday,” Club Vice President of Communication Dr. Sion Roy told the Lookout. 

“Based on those interviews, the executive committee recommended the candidates and on Wednesday, the membership may or may not necessarily choose the recommendations from the board.”

For City Council, the committee recommended McKeown and Planning Commissioners Sue Himmelrich and Richard McKinnon.

For the SMC Board of Trustees, the committee chose Activist Maria Loya, incumbents Louise Jaffe and Nancy Greenstein, and SMC Professor Dennis Frisch.

For Santa Monica School Board, the committee suggested incumbents Laurie Lieberman, Ralph Mechur and Oscar de la Torre, as well as Santa Monicans for Renter’s Rights (SMRR) Co-Chair Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein.

For the Rent Control Board, the Club will most likely endorse the three unopposed candidates Nicole Phillis, Steve Duron and incumbent Todd Flora.

Because the club is an affiliate of the Democratic Party, only registered Democrats were interviewed for possible endorsement.

Eight of the 14 Council candidates were interviewed by the Club’s executive committee.  In addition to McKeown, Himmelrich and McKinnon, the group interviewed O’Connor, Planning Commissioner Jennifer Kennedy, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Phil Brock, former Lookout Columnist Frank Gruber and non-profit consultant Nick Boles.

With the endorsement comes a direct mail effort as well as use of the club name in campaign literature, according to officials.

“We don’t donate money to the campaigns,” said Roy.  “We mainly help the candidates with mailers to registered Democrats, making recommendation to voters and hoping it carries some weight.”

The club will also vote on whether or not to support either of the two airport ballot measures, the transfer tax ballot measure and the rent control registration measure.

Santa Monica’s powerful tenants rights group, SMRR, did not endorse any Council candidate at its August 3 convention, but the group’s steering committee voted to back McKeown and Kennedy a week later.

SMRR Co-Chair Patricia Hoffman told the Lookout Friday that the option to support a third candidate is open, but is being held up by one member of the steering committee.

“I’m not being coy about it,” Hoffman told the Lookout.  Support for a third candidate, she said, “just needs one more vote from the steering committee. 

“Until we hear from that member, nothing else will happen,” she added. “Until then, we won’t be making additional endorsements.  It’s about 50-50 right now.”

The local hospitality worker’s union, UNITE HERE Local 11, will be releasing its endorsements this week.  While the union has traditionally backed SMRR-endorsed candidates, union members were seen attending the SMRR convention supporting McKeown and Gruber.

In addition to UNITE HERE, the Police and Firefighter’s unions will also be making their endorsements, which are usually announced in the middle to end of September.

The backing of the Police and Fire unions is considered among the most important endorsements, along with those of SMRR and the Chamber of Commerce.

The police union wields heavy clout and a large campaign war chest, while the firefighters’ endorsement is more symbolic, providing a big boost for candidates who will tout the endorsement in their own campaign literature, focusing attention on public safety.

The slow-growth group Residocracy is expected to make its endorsement in the upcoming weeks, trying out a new system that allows all of its members to vote online.

Slow growth group Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City made its endorsements a month and a half ago.

The group announced it would back McKeown, Himmelrich and McKinnon one day after the City Clerk’s Office began issuing nomination papers.

The organization is expected to send out mailers touting its support and attacking O’Connor, whom the group sees as too “pro-development.”

The filing period for write-in candidates begins on September 8 and ends October 21.

The last day to register to vote for November’s election is October 20, with election day scheduled for November 4.

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