By Daniel Larios
September 18, 2014 –Santa Monica’s powerful public safety unions will throw their reputation and considerable campaign war chest behind two incumbents and one challenger in the race for three City Council seats, union officials will announce Thursday.
Incumbent Mayor Pam O’Connor, Councilmember Kevin McKeown and former Lookout columnist Frank Gruber gained the endorsements of the Santa Monica Police Officers Association (SMPOA) and the Santa Monica Firefighters Local 1109 on Wednesday.
The public safety unions’ endorsements are considered among the most important endorsements in the November 4 race, along with those of the powerful tenant rights group Santa Monicans for Renters Rights (SMRR) and the Chamber of Commerce.
"The public, as well as City employees, are looking for ethical, compassionate, and fiscally sound decisions from the City Council,” reads the endorsement letter sent to the candidates.
“Following the endorsement interviews, we found [the endorsed candidates] to present solid views about problems in our community, as well as possessing the qualities necessary to serve in our City's highest elected office."
Candidates said they were pleased with the endorsement and acknowledged that the nod of the powerful local unions is one that carries a lot of weight with voters.
"I am honored to have received the endorsement of our local police officers and firefighters, who recognize my history of common sense leadership and my commitment to making public safety my top priority as a council member,” Gruber said in a statement.
“I look forward to working with them to make every neighborhood in our city safe," said Gruber, a former Planning Commissioner who also has the backing of the hospitality union UNITE HERE local 11.
McKeown has won the endorsement of the City’s public safety unions in all five of his successful council bids.
“These are the men and women who run toward armed shooters and into burning buildings, with the well-being of our community and of our residents as their unshakable mission,” McKeown told the Lookout.
“Their opinion on the welfare of our city means a lot to me. Having their support again makes me even more committed to maintaining, for everyone from toddlers to seniors, a safe and protected Santa Monica.”
This marks McKeown’s fifth and sixth union endorsements heading into November. He also has the backing of the hospitality union, the Coalition of Santa Monica City Employees (CSMCE), the California Nurses Association and the Teamsters Union 911.
O'Connor has received the public safety unions backing in all six of her successful bids for council, staring in 1994.
In addition to he Firefighters and Police unions, O’Connor has the backing of the City Employees and the Teamsters unions.
As of deadline, O’Connor had not responded to requests for comment.
The police union wields heavy clout and a large campaign war chest that has $81,620 in contributions to date, according to campaign finance records from the Santa Monica City Clerk’s Office. That’s more than the $73,672 raised SMRR.
The firefighters’ endorsement is more symbolic, providing a major boost for candidates who can tout their backing in campaign literature that focuses on public safety.
In the past, union members have raised money through their political action committees, posted signs and walked precincts for candidates.
Traditionally, the SMPOA has backed candidates from rival factions and based its endorsements not only on a candidate’s position on public safety, but also on the person’s chance of winning, political observers say.
The union also endorsed 3rd District County Supervisor Candidate Sheila Kuehl, who received the group’s backing during her state legislature bids.
In addition to the police and firefighter’s endorsement, McKeown and O’Connor also received the backing from the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters on Monday.
The filing period for write-in candidates ends October 21 and the last day to register to vote for November’s election is October 20, with Election Day scheduled for November 4.