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|SMRR Endorses Three Incumbents|
By Jorge Casuso
August 7, 2010 -- The Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR) steering committee announced Friday it has endorsed incumbent Council member Pam O'Connor and School Board members Oscar de la Torre and Ralph Mechur in the November elections.
The vote -- which was taken Wednesday but kept secret until the Friday 5 p.m. deadline for candidates to file papers -- rounds out the tenant group's slate for all four council seats and all four school board seats.
The three incumbents had fallen short of the 55 percent of the vote necessary to win the group's backing at last Sunday's SMRR convention, which was attended by an unprecedented number of new members with little or no ties to the powerful group.
All three candidates received more than the two-thirds vote of the 12-member steering committee required to be added to the slate.
"The general thinking was that all three of them are people who've been really with us on our core issues," said SMRR Co-chair Patricia Hoffman. "They've worked pretty consistently to make sure people stay in their homes and have supported school issues that are important to us."
By maintaining the vote secret until Friday, SMRR forced opposition leader Bob Holbrook to choose whether to run for a two-year or a four-year council seat without knowing if SMRR would field a full slate.
The political chess game did little to change he outcome, since Holbrook filed on Thursday to run for a four-year seat, the path he predicted he would take if O'Connor were endorsed.
"We didn't want to try and influence other people's decision making," Hoffman said. "We do what we need to do, and hopefully others do what they need to do."
Although SMRR will campaign for the candidates endorsed by the steering committee and include them in the group's literature, the candidates themselves cannot tout the group's endorsement in their campaign literature since they did not receive the necessary 55 percent vote at the convention.
It is yet to be seen how much weight a SMRR endorsement will carry. Holbrook, for one, thinks the group's influence as declined in recent years.
"It's a good endorsement, but I don't think it's better than police or fire," Holbrook told the Lookout earlier this week. "I don't think they have the money."
If the 2006 and 2008 races are any indication, the group, with its well-oiled political machine, still carries clout in the beachside city of 85,000.
In the two past elections, every candidate endorsed by SMRR won all the contested seats on the council and school board.
This year, O'Connor will join incumbent Council member Kevin McKeown and Planning Commissioner Ted Winterer on the SMRR ticket in the race for three four-year seats.
The group already has endorsed incumbents Gleam Davis and Terry O'Day -- who were appointed by the council after the deaths of Ken Genser and Herb Katz -- in the race for two two-year council seats.
Mechur and de la Torre will join incumbent Barry Snell and challenger Laurie Lieberman in the race for four open School Board seats.
"The general thinking was that all three of them are people who've
been really with us on our core issues. They've worked pretty consistently
to make sure people stay in their homes and have supported school issues
that are important to us."
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