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Shriver Denies Rumors of Political Aspiration

By Susan Reines

September 25 – Bobby Shriver’s campaign for City Council has focused unprecedented national attention on the city’s politics and generated rumors in newspapers across the state that the newest member of the Kennedy/Shriver clan to jump into the political arena is shooting for far more than a council seat.

With Assembly member Fran Pavley reaching her term limit in 2006, rumors are swirling from Sacramento to Santa Monica that the nephew of President John F. Kennedy is positioning himself for a run at the legislature.

“It took campaign-watchers in the Assembly all of about one minute” after Shriver announced his council candidacy to begin speculating that he would run for an assembly seat in 2006, columnist Timm Herdt wrote in the Ventura County Star.

But it appears the widespread speculation that Shriver is trying to use the council as a stepping stone to higher government office stems from nothing more than his illustrious genes. Shriver has firmly denied that he desires any political office outside the city.

Asked if he had higher political aspirations, Shriver told The Lookout last week, “No, no, no. I’ve spent my life getting to Santa Monica and I don’t want to leave.”

He said he would not want to live in Sacramento or Washington “when I can live in Santa Monica.”

Council Member Bob Holbrook, who helped Shriver gather the necessary signatures to make the ballot, said the candidate has told him that he had no desire to run for office outside the city.

“The answer is, from talking to Bobby, that he doesn’t have the least bit of interest in running for state assembly or anything else,” Holbrook said.

Holbrook pointed out that Santa Monica -- which has never had a council member move on to higher elected office -- would not be a likely place for Shriver to start were he seeking to launch a political career.

Santa Monica is “not a good place politically to be coming from,” Holbrook said. “Santa Monica politicians are not viewed as being mainstream Democrats,” he said, citing the council’s 2001 approval of an unprecedented living wage law as an example.

“Even if you were the mayor of Santa Monica it would be very, very difficult” to launch a political career using the council as a stepping stone, said Holbrook, who is serving his 14th year on the council.

Holbrook also noted that it would be “much more difficult” for Shriver to run for council than for State assembly, because Santa Monica places strict limits on campaign donations. Shriver, Holbrook said, has donors who would likely be willing to give much more than the $250 individual donors are allowed to contribute to City campaigns.

While Santa Monica’s council races have not typically attracted media attention outside the city, Shriver’s bid has focused an unprecedented spotlight on the City government.

Shriver’s bid for the council has been featured on CNN and in newspapers across the globe, from the Sacramento Bee to Austria’s Der Standard.

Some have speculated that the media attention and Shriver’s family background have placed him into a “can’t lose” situation, with an embarrassing defeat sure to grab headlines.

Shriver, however, said he feels no pressure from the widespread attention.

“I’m pretty used to that kind of thing,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s not really surprising.” Shriver added that, if anything, he would be “surprised if they didn’t” cover his race.

“I hope it (the attention) is good for the city,” Shriver said, adding that his focus has been on local issues, not on publicity.

“My challenge in the race has been to get my message out,” he said.

Shriver’s message: City government has focused its attention on superfluous issues and has not been respectful of its constituents. This, the candidate says, is illustrated by the now-notorious controversy that resulted when the City threatened violators of the municipal hedge height limit with $25,000 per day fines.

Council Member Michael Feinstein, one of Shriver’s 13 opponents for the four open seats on the council, seemed unruffled by the attention Shriver has garnered.

"National attention is nice, but the value will be if it translates into increased resident participation here at home,” Feinstein said, when asked how the attention would affect the race. “I think it can, and I hope it does."

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