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Hope Reigns in Home Stretch

By Susan Reines
Staff Writer

November 1 -- There were plenty of people ringing doorbells Sunday, and not all of them were in costume.

With the 12-candidate City Council race still apparently wide open two days before the election, each of the major players stood at the helm of an army of volunteers, canvassing neighborhoods in last-ditch efforts to get out the vote.

Four council seats are open, but far more than four candidates say they are optimistic heading into the final stretch of a campaign that, like the Presidential race, has been marked by heightened participation across the board.

A myriad of new players entered the political arena this year, from the underrepresented Pico Neighborhood rallying at the Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights convention to capture one of the group's powerful endorsements for its candidate to the Chamber of Commerce handing out its first-ever endorsements to the nephew of John F. Kennedy attracting a national spotlight to his movement for change in City Hall.

The mix of new forces has created a campaign that seems to be coming down to wire, with little predictability and no clear front-runners other than Kennedy nephew Bobby Shriver, who has far outpaced the other candidates in fundraising and publicity.

Candidate David Cole, who is running with political columnist Bill Bauer under the banner Team for Change, said the mood was optimistic at his headquarters Sunday because the race still seemed open for the winning.

"Actually, it's very upbeat; it's amazingly upbeat," he said. "It (the election) is unpredictable, other than Bobby being elected. When you talk to people, there're not mentioning the names that we would have thought a month ago."

Kathryn Morea, one of the four candidates on the Chamber of Commerce slate, said she, too, had high hopes.

"You know, I'm enthusiastic," Morea said from her cell phone as she drove downtown to attend the first of two Halloween parties where she would spend the evening campaigning, election stickers plastered to her shirt. "I'm running on adrenaline."

Morea said she was concentrating on getting her name out in the final hours, "pounding the pavement" to meet people in neighborhoods and running an ad on cable television.

By Sunday evening, the exhaustion of the campaign began to set in, candidates said.

"I'll be really thrilled when it's over," Morea said.

Her slate mate, Chamber-backed candidate Matt Dinolfo, said, "Everybody's pretty tired. It has been really a pretty tough campaign. It's been a pretty fatiguing three months."

Dinolfo said he was optimistic, after a weekend walking neighborhoods and farmers markets and school fairs, that he and the other opposition candidates could unseat SMRR, which currently has a 5 to 2 majority on the council.

"I think there are going to be some changes," he said. "I don't really have any particular knowledge, but I feel that there are."

SMRR has controlled the council for most of the past 25 years, and this year it has borne the brunt of business groups' attacks on the status quo at City Hall. At the SMRR campaign headquarters Saturday, organizer Michael Tarbet described the mood as "cautiously cautious."

SMRR has taken a page from the presidential campaign book and committed its last few days to a "get out the vote" push, still promoting its endorsed candidates but focusing primarily on mobilizing residents to vote.

Campaign literature was littered across the card tables SMRR set up outside its headquarters Saturday, but all of the campaign workers were either out walking precincts or inside calling voters. The workers were reminding people of their polling locations and giving them a phone number to call if they needed a ride to the polls Tuesday, Tarbet said.

SMRR candidate Maria Loya said she was still campaigning for herself but was focusing most of her efforts on promoting voter turnout and the SMRR slate as a whole.

"We're participating in a get out the vote, and encouraging voters to essentially get out and vote to make change and ensure that they put progressive candidates on the council," she said.

Tarbet said the SMRR phone-bankers and the 100-plus campaigners walking door-to-door were, in addition to urging people to vote, asking voters to choose the four SMRR-backed candidates, Loya, Patricia Hoffman and incumbents Richard Bloom and Ken Genser, and asking them not to vote for incumbent Herb Katz, one of the two council members who regularly opposes SMRR during council votes.

SMRR attacks or not, the Chamber-backed Katz said he was feeling good.

"The mood is good; we're feeling good. We think we're going to be successful," he said, adding the he had had a large number of requests for yard signs.

While SMRR singled out Katz, another candidate spent Sunday cleaning himself from mud slung by the a city business-owner.

Incumbent Michael Feinstein, running as an independent this year after parting ways with SMRR, sent his volunteers out to walk door-to-door armed with fliers defending his record and promoting his candidacy.

Feinstein, who was the number one vote-getter in the 2000 council race, said his campaign workers were excited, and he believed the race was close and undecided.

"Who knows who's going to win?" he said. "It could turn out like the presidential, where we won't know for weeks."

Across town at Shriver's headquarters, amidst the clean smells of fresh paper and paint, campaign workers straightened their office after the precinct-walkers and phone-bankers had gone home late Saturday afternoon.

The workers were in high spirits.

"I've worked on Los Angeles City campaigns that haven't been this electric," Manager Matthew Dodson said.

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