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,
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
“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.