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Field of Candidates Shrinks; Race Remains Heated

By Olin Ericksen
Staff Writer

September 13 – The race for four open seats on the City Council is expected to remain hotly contested, despite the loss of two challengers who have dropped out of the running.

Last week Tom Viscount, who was vying for the support of the Chamber of Commerce, announced he was bowing out of the race for four open council seats to concentrate on his business ventures.

The announcement came one day after he was interviewed by the chamber’s Political Action Committee.

Lorene "Leah" Mendelsohn also has announced she will not campaign, although the names of the two candidates will be among the 16 on the crowded ballot.

“I’m asking everyone not to vote for me,” said Mendelsohn, who said she only entered the race in case other candidates could not run. “I wasn’t in it for my ego in other words.”

Mendehlson said she is backing Bobby Shriver, a member of the Kennedy family, in his first foray into politics.

“When I saw that he did join the race and I felt comfortable that there were other qualified candidates running, I decided to withdraw,” Mendelsohn said.

However, Mendelsohn, who is an experienced fundraiser, said she will not be campaigning for Shriver actively, lending her time and energy instead to the National Democratic presidential campaign.

As for the other three seats, Mendelsohn backs incumbent Herb Katz, physician Matt Dinolfo and – with Viscount’s departure – Kathryn Morea.

Morea, an administrator at a local law firm, is part of “Team for Change,” an anti-Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights slate that includes local columnist Bill Bauer and mental center director David Cole.

All three actively sought the chamber’s PAC endorsement last week, answering questionnaires and attending and interview process open to the press. Chamber representatives said they expect to announce who will receive the business group’s formidable backing on Monday.

Cole, who made an unsuccessful bid for the council four years ago, said the slate -- which has attacked SMRR on the City’s policies towards business, traffic and the homeless -- plans to remain in the race regardless of the Chamber PAC’s decision.

“I’ll stay in no matter what,” said Cole. “In fact we were not at all banking on their backing.”

In the meantime, the group will be busy this week attending fundraisers and extensively campaigning, Cole said.

The chamber and “Team for Change” slates will go up against a SMRR ticket composed of Mayor Richard Bloom, Councilman Ken Genser, former school board president Patricia Hoffman and Pico Neighborhood activist Maria Loya.

The fourth incumbent, Councilman Michael Feinstein, is running as an independent after failing to win the powerful tenant group’s nod.

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