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O'Connor Out, Morena In; Term Limits Wins in Landslide
By Jorge Casuso
November 7, 2018 -- Santa Monica City Councilmember Pam O'Connor lost her bid for a record seventh four-year term on Tuesday, while a measure to impose Council term limits won in a surprising landslide.
O'Connor, a pro-growth member of the Council since 1994, finished a distant fourth in the race for two open Council seats with 7,385 votes. She becomes the third incumbent to lose a bid for re-election in the past quarter century.
Sue Himmelrich, a slow growth advocate and the only Council member to support term limits, finished first with 15,474 votes with all the precincts reporting.
Challenger Greg Morena -- the only candidate to win the endorsement of all of the City's major political groups -- finished second with 12,917 votes.
Councilmember Kevin McKeown, who had finished first in his last three re-election bids, finished third with 12,559 votes.
He joins O'Connor and former Mayor Bob Holbrook as the only Council members elected to a sixth four-year term.
McKeown irked members of his slow-growth base when he accepted the backing of Santa Monica Forward, a political group largely bankrolled by developers.
Ashley Powell, who was the top fundraiser with more than $105,000 in campaign contributions but won no major endorsements, finished fifth with 6,534 votes.
Scott Bellomo, who raised no money, finished sixth with 5,596 votes, less than 1,000 votes behind Powell.
Geoffrey Neri finished seventh with 4,412 votes.
The seven Council candidates were the fewest in at least the past 30 years.
In a startling victory, Measure TL -- which restricts Council members to three terms -- won with 18,999 votes in favor to 6,816 votes against, or nearly 74 percent. It was the only measure on the ballot with an opposing argument.
Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR), the city's most powerful political organization, opposed the measure.
Measure SMS -- a record $485 million bond to renovate and replace facilities at Santa Monica public schools -- cruised to an easy victory with 19,037 votes in favor to 8,018 votes against.
The 70.4 percent of the vote easily surpassed the 55 percent needed to pass a bond.
Measure SM -- which requires a super-majority vote for developments that exceed zoning limits and to make changes to major planning policies -- was approved with 17,387 votes in favor to 7,008 against, or 71 percent.
Measure RR -- which amends the City Charter to allow non-citizens to sit on three City boards and commissions -- easily passed with 19,023 votes in favor and 5,493 against, or nearly 78 percent of the vote.
The measure changes the eligibility requirements for service on the Library Board, Personnel Board and Airport Commission from "qualified elector" to "resident" bringing them in line with other City bodies with appointed volunteers.
In the race for four School Bard seats, all four incumbents were swept back into office.
Laurie Liberman finished first with 18,911 votes, followed by Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein with 16,467 votes, Oscar de la Torre with 16,165 votes and Craig Foster with 14,985 votes.
Challenger Ann Maggio Thanawalla finished fifth with 10,142 votes.
Three incumbents were re-elected to the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees, while Sion Roy will take the seat vacated by Andrew Walzer, who chose not to run.
Louise Jaffe finished first with 17,794 votes, followed by Nancy Greenstein with 17,653, Roy with 16,850 and Barry Snell with 14,600 votes.
Challenger Patrick Acosta II finished fifth with 7,389 votes.
In the race three seats on the Rent Control Board, incumbents Naomi Sultan with 14,178 votes and Nicole Phillis with 13,884 were re-elected. Steve Duron finished third with 12,029.
All three were endorsed by Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR).
Lori Brown, who is vice-chair of the Recreation and Parks Commission, finished fourth with 9,695 votes.
Jon Mann -- who has made a record 13 bids for City Council -- finished a distant fifth with 3,723 votes.
The vote totals will change slightly after the final mail-in and provisional votes are counted.
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