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Santa Monica Candidates Seek Campaign Boost at SMRR Convention
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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica


By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

July 29, 2016 -- The first major event of this year’s Santa Monica election will take place Sunday at John Adams Middle School when the powerful Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) holds its convention to make endorsements on the various political races and ballot measures.

All four City Council incumbents--Tony Vazquez, Gleam Davis, Terry O’Day and Ted Winterer--are seeking SMRR’s backing. Each of them received it in 2012.

Challengers Armen Melkonians, Terence Later, Kevin Wray and Whitney Scott Baine told The Lookout they too would ask for SMRR’s support.

Planning Commissioner Jennifer Kennedy, who was backed by SMRR in her failed 2014 campaign and has pulled papers to run again this year, did not respond to The Lookout’s email asking about her convention intention prior to the publication deadline.

The SMRR endorsement is an important one because it means well-funded campaign support from an organization that has been the most significant player in local politics for nearly 40 years.

Six of the seven current council members won their races with SMRR’s support. Some earned it with an endorsement at the convention, others received their backing through the organization’s steering committee.

A candidate who is backed due to a steering committee decision that comes after the convention cannot campaign as a SMRR endorsee. The person’s name and photo still appear on SMRR's campaign literature.

At the 2014 convention, no candidate received the required 55 percent support from attendees to receive an endorsement (”SMRR Fails to Back Santa Monica Council Candidates,” August 4, 2014).

The steering committee chose to back Kevin McKeown and Kennedy a week later . It announced support for Sue Himmelrich a month after that ("Santa Monica Group’s Endorsements Spark Community Debate,” August 12, 214).

McKeown and Himmelrich won two of the three seats.

Determining who, if anybody, will get an endorsement on Sunday can be difficult. It depends on convention attendance.

Anybody who is a dues-paying member of SMRR can vote at the convention. New members must have joined by May 1. Those who were members last year can renew the day of the convention.

SMRR’s backing is no less important for other local races.

The organization has backed six of the seven members of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board, all seven members of the Santa Monica College board and the four elected members of the Rent Control Board (it currently has one appointee).

SMMUSD board incumbents Maria Leon-Vazquez and Ralph Mechur will seek a SMRR endorsement.

The organization backed Leon-Vazquez in 2012 and Mechur two years ago. Mechur lost that election, but returned to the board not long after to fill the seat vacated by now Sen. Ben Allen.

Challengers Phil Brock and Jon Kean told The Lookout they will also seek SMRR’s endorsement. At least one challenger will earn a spot on the board in this race for three seats since Jose Escarce is not running for a fifth term.

SMC board incumbents Susan Aminoff, Margaret Quinones and Rob Rader as well as challenger Sion Roy will seek SMMR’s endorsement. The incumbents were all backed by SMRR four years ago in an election that had no challengers.

SMRR has a nearly perfect record of picking rent board members, which makes sense because of the two groups' related history.

The one exception was in 2008 when Republican landlord Robert Kronovet shocked political observers by winning a seat on the board (”Historic! SMRR Foe Wins,” December 3, 2008).

Caroline Torosis and recent rent board appointee Anastasia Foster will seek SMRR’s endorsement. Challenger Caroline Torosis did not respond to The Lookout’s email about her plans.

Realtor Elaine Golden-Gealer, who regularly attends rent board meetings to speak in opposition to the panel's decisions, responded to The Lookout, “you must be kidding.”

“I am actually a candidate with new ideas to improve and reform rent control,” wrote Golden-Gealer, who called herself an “outcumbent.”

The convention will begin at 1 p.m.

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