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Escarce Wins Late SMRR Nod

By Jorge Casuso

August 11 – In an unusual, and perhaps unprecedented, move, Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) on Saturday endorsed a candidate who failed to win the powerful group’s nod during its nominating convention.

In a closed-door meeting, the group’s 13- member steering committee voted to endorse incumbent Jose Escarce in what promises to be a close race for School Board. Escarce, who has served eight years on the board with SMMR’s backing, had twice fallen short of the endorsement a week earlier. (“SMRR Endorses Genser, Bloom; Escarce, Meister Fall Short for School Board Nod,” August 3, 2008)

SMRR leaders said the endorsement was made, in part, because Escarce received a majority of the membership’s vote, although he had fallen just one vote short of the necessary 55 percent to win the nod.

“The steering committee considered him one of the more able and effective members of the School Board,” said former mayor Dennis Zane, a member of the steering committee and a founder of SMRR. Zane, along with Teachers Union President Harry Keilly, had given speeches on Escarce’s behalf at the convention.

Some of the steering committee members expressed concerns that a faction of Special Education parents had joined the tenants group for the express purpose of mounting an organized effort to deny Escarce the nomination, Zane said.

Although there were no dissenting votes Saturday, several steering committee members abstained, Zane said.

Tricia Crane, a leader of the anti-Escarce faction at the convention August 3, said she was disappointed with the steering committee’s decision.

“What is most upsetting is that it seems like. . . decisions are being made in secret,” Crane said.

Escarce said his “goal is to be a really positive force to reform Special Education.”

The endorsement could be a critical boost in the race for three open full-term seats on the seven-member board. (In the race to finish the two remaining years of an appointed seat, incumbent Ralph Mechur faces no opposition so far.)

“I’m very pleased,” Escarce said after the steering committee’s vote. “I’m really gratified and humbled, and I’m very grateful for it (the endorsement).”

Escarce joins newcomer Ben Allen and fellow incumbents Mechur and Maria Leon Vazquez on the SMRR slate.

Judith Meister, a PTA leader and former City employer ran unsuccessfully at the convention for the group’s endorsement.

She is expected to receive the backing of LEAD (Leadership Effectiveness Accountability Direction), a new group composed of parents, community members and education advocates formed to help usher in a “new era of leadership” in the School District. (“New Group to Work for School District Reform,” June 3, 2008)

Chris Bley, who also failed to win SMRR’s endorsement, has qualified for the November 4 ballot. Potential candidates have until Wednesday to submit petitions to enter the race after incumbent Kathy Wisnicki failed to pull papers by Friday’s deadline.


“The steering committee considered him one of the more able and effective members of the School Board.” Dennis Zane


“What is most upsetting is that it seems like once again, decisions are being made in secret.” Tricia Crane


“My goal is to be a really positive force to reform Special Education.” Jose Escarce


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