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Two Slow-Growth Challengers No Longer Council Hopefuls


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By Jorge Casuso

August 7, 2018 -- Two slow-growth council hopefuls who had been intent on mounting a stiff challenge against Santa Monica incumbents have decided not to enter the race for three open seats.

Citing the uncertainty surrounding a voting rights lawsuit that could impact the November 6 election, Armen Melkonians said he and his running mate Kate Bransfield will not submit the nominating petitions they pulled last month.

"We were just sitting there thinking and (with) the Voting Rights Act lawsuit what's going to happen is uncertain," said Melkonians.

The decision, however, was not solely political, Melkonians said.

"I have a kid and a lot of work right now," he told The Lookout. "All of it put together it kind of made sense not to enter the race this time.

"It was a real tough decision."

Melkonians, who finished fifth in the 2016 race for four Council seats, had planned to make crime his biggest campaign issue.

"It was going to be a dirty race," he said. "Nobody's going to deal with (crime) now, and it's going to get worse.

"We're going to be pushing the case from the outside."

Melkonians and Bransfield were counting on the grassroots organizing efforts of Residocracy, which in the past gathered the signatures necessary to place two anti-development measures on the ballot.

"Together, our candidacy would have been very strong but we still would have needed to once again, mobilize the thousands of Residocracy supporters," Bransfield said.

"Ultimately, it seemed unfair to ask them to devote that degree of time and energy when we couldn't be certain that their effort wouldn't have been in vain."

Residocracy, which is headed by Melkonians, has recently shifted its focus from fighting major development to sounding the alarm about a recent rise in violent crime ("Santa Monica Slow-Growth Group Shifts Focus to Crime," March 2, 2018).

Melkonian's exit from the race was abrupt as his entry.

He had hesitated to jump in until a member of the Residocracy Facebook page posted a graphic image of a man masturbating in a Santa Monica park ("Graphic Photo of Man Masturbating in Santa Monica Park Causes Uproar," July 13, 2018).

Unlike the image that triggered his decision to enter the race, the lawsuit that paved the way for his exit has been a long time in the making.

After efforts by the City to have the lawsuit dismissed, the trail began last week with both sides giving their opening arguments ("Plaintiffs in Santa Monica Voting Rights Lawsuit Paint Picture of Disenfranchised Minority," August 6, 2018 and "Latinos More than Fairly Represented on Santa Monica Council, Defense Argues in Voting Rights Case," August 6, 2018).

If the Latino plaintiffs in the lawsuit prevail, Santa Monica could be forced to replace its at-large elections with district elections.

The judge could render a decision in time to impact the November election, said plaintiff's' attorney Kevin Shenkman.


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