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Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights Sweeps Elections

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

November 7, 2012 -- Santa Monica's powerful renters' rights group managed to sweep all three major local races, according to preliminary counts by the Los Angeles County Registrar's office.

After 18 years, former Council member Tony Vazquez will return to the dais, joining Planning Commissioner Ted Winterer, both of whom have been advocates of slow growth in a city experiencing a rise in development.

Winterer and School Board President Ben Allen watch the as the national election results roll in (photo by Jason Islas)

Incumbents Terry O'Day and Gleam Davis, both of whom also had the backing of Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR), also regained their seats.

According to preliminary vote counts, Winterer came out on top with 13,586 votes. O'Day followed with 13,057. Davis got 11,605 votes while Vazquez got 9,129.

Education activist Shari Davis finished fifth, pulling in 8,091 votes. Shari Davis did not have the backing of SMRR, but she had been endorsed by the public safety unions and Community for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS).

“I'm thrilled to have such great support from the voters of Santa Monica and after losing so narrowly two years ago, today's victory is especially resonant,” said Winterer, who fell 56 votes shy of a Council seat in 2010.

Three of the four SMRR candidates were also backed by Santa Monicans United for a Responsible Future (SMURF), a political action committee funded by developers that spent $355,000 campaigning for their slate -- Winterer, O'Day, Gleam Davis and Shari Davis -- despite protests from the candidates.

Still, the SMRR slate won out in the end.

The four SMRR candidates not only benefited from the group's $120,000 war chest -- which paid for several mailings and canvassers -- but also from the group's foot soldiers on election day.

Dozens of volunteers from Unite Here Local 11, the hospitality workers' union, joined SMRR members on election day as they pounded the pavement and handed out SMRR literature to voters on their way to the polls.

Behind Shari Davis was Planning Commissioner Richard McKinnon with 5,984 votes followed by newcomer John Cyrus Smit with 4,818.

Coming in eighth was former Lookout columnist Frank Gruber with 4,619 votes.

Behind Gruber was Jonathan Mann with 3,783 votes, then Bob Seldon with 3,184 votes and Armen Melkonians with 2,886 votes.

Terence Later got 2,829 votes followed by Jerry Rubin with 2,313 votes. Bringing up the rear were Roberto Gomez with 2,147 votes and Steve Duron with 1,829.

In the school board race, the three incumbents -- Ben Allen, Jose Escarce and Maria Leon-Vazquez -- beat out a slate of three Malibu-based reform candidates.

Allen came in on top with 17,889 votes followed by Leon-Vazquez, who got 14,293. Escarce came in with 12,803 votes, more than 1,000 votes ahead of Craig Foster, the challenger who got the most votes.

The Malibu slate had argued that the district was in need of reform and had openly supported the idea that Malibu and Santa Monica should become separate school districts.

SMRR also regained full control of the Rent Control board after ousting Robert Kronovet, who won his seat in 2008 despite the group's opposition.

Newcomer Chris Walton got 9,219 votes while Isle Rosenstein, an appointed incumbent, got 9,130 votes.

Kronovet brought up the rear with 7,926 votes.

Measure ES, a $385 million bond measure that will help pay for construction costs throughout the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, got 67 per cent of votes cast. It required at least 55 percent to pass.

Measure GA, which passed with 60 percent of the vote, will change the formula Rent Control board officials use to determine the Annual Adjustment.

The Annual Adjustment is the amount landlords can raise rents on controlled units to compensate for increases in overhead.

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