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SMRR Endorses McKeown, Himmelrich, Morena for City Council
By Jorge Casuso
July 30, 2018 -- Two City Council incumbents and a new challenger won the endorsement of Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR) on Sunday paving the way for what promises to be a hotly contested race in November.
Greg Morena, a restaurant owner who also has the backing of the beach city's business community, will join Councilmembers Kevin McKeown and Sue Himmelrich on the slate of the City's most powerful political organization.
Incumbent Pam O'Connor did not seek the endorsement of the tenants' group after failing to win its backing four years ago ("O’Connor Faces Tough Re-Election Bid Without SMRR Support," August 12, 2014).
McKeown (who is seeking a sixth four-year term) and Himmelrich (who is making her first reelection bid) won on the first ballot.
Morena -- who won the endorsement on the second ballot -- is one of two residents on the City's Audit Subcommittee and owner of The Albright seafood restaurant on the Santa Monica Pier.
Political activist Mary Marlow, who heads the Santa Monica Transparency Project, failed to win the necessary 55 percent of the membership vote for the group's backing.
Sunday's field of Council hopefuls was likely the smallest in the group's 40-year history, and turnout for the convention was likely the lowest in a decade.
SMRR Co-chair Denny Zane attributed the low turnout to the group's success in fending off organizations that have packed conventions with their members in recent years.
"What that means is we fought them off," said Zane, a former Santa Monica mayor. "This year we didn't have all these interlopers trying to direct our agenda."
SMRR members on Sunday also took positions on two local ballot measures.
Members also voted to support a measure that would require a super-majority Council vote to make changes to the City's zoning standards ("Council Approves Ballot Measure Requiring Super-Majority Vote on Development," June 28, 2018).
In addition, the members voted to support a possible bond measure to fund capital projects for the School District ("Board to Decide on Improvement District to Bond $650 Million for Santa Monica Schools," May 15, 2018).
SMRR members took positions on two state measures -- supporting Proposition 10, which would repeal vacancy decontrol, and opposing Proposition 6, which would repeal California's Transportation Investment Program.
The four incumbents in the race for School Board -- Laurie Lieberman, Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, Oscar de la Torre and Craig Foster -- won the group's endorsement.
In the race for four College Board seats, challenger Sion Roy joined incumbents Nancy Greenstein, Barry A. Snell and Louise Jaffe on the SMRR slate.
Boardmember Andrew Walzer does not plan to seek reelection.
In the race for Rent Control Board, Naomi Sultan will join incumbents Nicole Phillis and Steve Duron on the SMRR slate.
Incumbent Todd Flora has been termed out after serving eight years.
The endorsement of SMRR -- which has been the most significant player in local politics for four decades -- is a major boost for candidates who benefit from the group's campaign literature and well-oiled political machine.
Five of the seven current council members won their most recent bids with SMRR’s support. The only exceptions -- O'Connor and Terry O'Day -- had previously received the group's endorsement.
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