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City Employee Unions, Special Interests Back Incumbents

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By Jorge Casuso

October 5, 2020 -- Santa Monica's employee unions and special interest groups are building a large financial warchest to back the status quo at City Hall, according to campaign disclosure statements posted on the City Clerk's website Monday.

The statements show that three political action committees representing developers, renters and education advocates, along with the local Democratic Club had raised a combined total of $95,905 to back incumbents November 3.

Meanwhile, two City employee unions representing municipal workers and police officers announced Monday they were pooling the $128,155 they had on hand as of June 30 to back all five incumbents.

The firefighters union -- which is backing four of the five incumbents -- had $119,034 on hand.

By contrast, Santa Monicans for Change -- formed recently to support a slate of four challengers -- had raised a total of $11,974, according statements filed September 24.

Santa Monica Forward -- which had raised $62,319 primarily from the development community -- is expected to continue building a large warchest to back the five incumbents.

Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR)had $24,043 on hand as of June 30 to back incumbents Gleam Davis, Ana Jara and Ted Winterer in the race for four full-term seats, and incumbent Kristen McCowan in the race for a two-year seat.

Incumbent Terry O'Day failed to win the coveted backing of the tenants group, which did not file a financial statement for the period from July 1 and September 19 by the September 24 deadline, according to the City Clerk's postings.

The group spent $142,712 in the 2016 Council race and $128,903 in 2018, according to campaign finance statements.

The Santa Monica Democratic Club -- which is backing the five incumbents -- had raised $11,435 as of June 30 but did not file a report last month.

The Community for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS) has raised $5,524, to back the five incumbents.

In addition, the three City employee unions -- all but one of which is backing all five incumbents -- had a combined cash balance totaling $247,189 as of June 30.

None of the groups filed statements by the latest deadline, according to the City Cerk's postings.

On Monday, the Santa Monica Police Officers Association (SMPOA) said it would not endorse Council candidates this year after Davis and O'Day decided not seek the traditionally powerful group's backing.

Instead the POA -- which had $91,997 on hand on June 30 -- announced Monday that it will back the five incumbents endorsed by the Coalition of Santa Monica City Employees.

“It’s important to us that all city employees have a platform to express their opinions," said SMPOA Chair Erika Aklufi. "The diverse array of employees represented by the coalition are engaged every day in the hard work that keeps our city running.

"Voters should know what they think about the decisions we face this November," Aklufi said in a statement. "This year we felt the best decision for us was to empower their voices.”

Benjamin Steers, president of the CSMCE, said the Coalition was "grateful for the contribution" made by the SMPOA.

“With this contribution, the Coalition of Santa Monica City Employees will be able to support candidates we believe will lead our city out of this crisis and champion our community’s values,” Steers said in a statement.

The Santa Monica Firefighters Political Activities Committee -- which had a cash balance of $119,034 -- is the only major group to break ranks with the status quo.

The Firefighters union announced last month that it would back challenger Christine Parra, who is in charge of emergency response for Culver City, instead of Jara.

Parra is on the Santa Monicans for Change slate that includes Arts Commissioner Phil Brock, School Board Member Oscar de la Torre and Planning Commissioner Mario Foonda-Bonardi.

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