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Santa Monica Forward Endorses Two Incumbents, Challenger


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By Jorge Casuso

September 17, 2018 -- City Councilmember Kevin McKeown, long considered a slow-growth advocate, has received the endorsement of Santa Monica Forward, a political group largely backed by developers.

The pro-growth group also endorsed incumbent Pam O'Connor and challenger Greg Morena for three open seats on the City Council, the Lookout has learned.

The endorsement by the group -- which spent nearly $744,000 to defeat slow-growth Measure LV on the 2016 ballot -- is expected to come with a hefty developer warchest to independently back the three candidates.

The endorsement of McKeown, who has never sought or received developer money during his 20 years on the Council, came as a surprise to some local political observers.

In the past McKeown has largely relied on small donations from residents and the support of the City's powerful tenants group Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR).

Responding to a question from the Lookout last Monday, McKeown said he would accept Forward's support although it comes through a Political Action Committee (PAC) funded with developers' money.

"Not all endorsements come with direct contributions to the candidate-controlled committee," McKeown wrote in an email sent the day before interviewing with the group. "If Forward sets up a PAC, by definition I have no control over that.

"You may remember, though, that during the LV campaign, their PAC strategist crossed the line on one mail piece and I promptly went on record in protest."

McKeown also noted he doesn't always agree with groups that endorse him, including the slow-growth residents' group Residocracy, a foe of Forward.

"Remember, four years ago, Residocracy endorsed me, and we certainly didn’t see eye to eye on everything (as evidenced by our terminal disagreement over Measure LV in 2016)," McKeown wrote.

On Sunday, McKeown sent an email to supporters announcing the backing of Forward, as well as the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, calling it "Big News that just can't wait."

The group's endorsement of O'Connor, a longtime champion of transit-oriented development, was expected.

O'Connor and McKeown have long been political foes, especially on development issues.

Challenger Greg Morena, like McKeown, has also received the endorsement of SMRR and the LA County Democratic Party.

Morena registered as a Democrat in July, after having stated no party affiliation, according to the Los Angeles County Registrar's office.

Like O'Connor, Morena was expected to be endorsed by Forward, where he has close ties to some of its leaders.

Forward has not yet announced its endorsements.


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