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County Dems Back Three Council Incumbents, Challenger

By Jorge Casuso

September 10 – After trading their seats on the City Council dais for folding chairs in a crowded union hall, the four council incumbents Tuesday night quietly watched as the LA County Democratic Party made its endorsements without letting them speak.

The four council members, who had forced the cancellation of Tuesday night’s council meeting for lack of a quorum, were prepared to address the full committee in the event Mayor Herb Katz was allowed to appeal the recommendations of the committee representing the Santa Monica area.

Instead, the central committee heeded the subgroup’s recommendations and endorsed council incumbents Richard Bloom, Ken Genser and Bobby Shriver, and challenger Ted Winterer in the race for four open council seats.

The nearly unanimous vote bucked a trend that saw Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) and the local Democratic Club only endorse Genser and Bloom, the first time the two groups left two seats unendorsed in a council race.

While the county party endorsed Shriver, who fell short of winning the local club endorsement and did not seek SMRR’s backing, it snubbed Katz, a lifelong Democrat and SMRR foe who has the backing of the city’s business community.

“I think I should have been endorsed,” said Katz, who cast his first vote for Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson in 1952. “The only reason I heard was because they didn’t want to endorse every incumbent.”

Katz was unable to recruit a central committee member to appeal the 41st Assembly District Committee’s recommendations this weekend, effectively closing any potential debate.

Before the central committee voted, the necessary number of members backed a successful motion to separate the incumbents from the lone challenger. But the move made no difference in the vote to endorse the subgroup’s choices.

The only chance for a council member to speak came when Richard Bloom defended charges that the City banned groups and individuals from feeding the homeless in public parks.

While the City did not impose an outright ban, it made it difficult for those who hand out meals to obtain a permit, forcing feeding programs indoors where the homeless can he hooked up with social services.

“We are doing more than any city our size to help end homelessness,” Bloom told the crowd.

An effort to have the council incumbents explain their opposition to Prop T – a measure on the November ballot that would cap most commercial development in the beachside city – failed, because it was made out of order.

Katz, Bloom and Genser have adamantly opposed the measure, while Shriver has not taken a position.

The central committee voted earlier in the night to endorse the measure, also known as the Residents’ Initiative to Fight Traffic (RIFT), which would cap most commercial development at 75,000 square feet a year for the next 15 years.

The committee also voted to back a $295 million Santa Monica College bond and a proposed update to Santa Monica's Utility Users tax (UUT).

The group also made endorsements in the local races for School and College boards.

In the race for three four-year seats on the School Board, the committee endorsed incumbent Maria Leon Vazquez and challengers Ben Allen and Chris Bley.

Incumbent Jose Escarce did not seek the group’s endorsement. Vazquez, Allen and Escarce are endorsed by SMMR, the Democratic Club and the local Teachers Union.

Incumbent Ralph Mechur, who is running unopposed in the race to complete the final two years of an appointed four-year term, also won the county party’s endorsement.

In the race for three seats on the College Board, the central committee endorsed all three incumbents -- Margaret Q. Quiñónez-Pérez, Susan Aminoff and Rob Rader.





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