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Chamber Backs Holbrook, O’Day for Council

By Olin Ericksen
Staff Writer

August 17 -- The Chamber of Commerce will back four-time incumbent Mayor Bob Holbrook and Planning Commissioner Terry O’Day for two of three open City Council seats in November in what promises to be a different kind of campaign for the vocal business group, chamber officials said Wednesday.

The move by the Santa Monica’s business community now sets the stage for a political chess match with the city’s powerful renters group, which two weeks ago endorsed its own slate of candidates, including two council incumbents, for the ultimate prize: control of the City Council.

“The board really feels we have two strong candidates here,” said Chamber President and CEO Kathy Dodson. “The potential exists if someone comes along that we’ll give a third endorsement, but we really felt comfortable with these two.”

Just how business leaders will back Holbrook and O’Day will differ from previous elections, Dodson said.

Earlier this year, the chamber dissolved its political action committee (or PAC), which had been used to bankroll successful campaigns to help pass local education bonds and defeat an unprecedented living wage law.

Instead of financing a message or issue through the PAC, Chamber officials intend to focus on backing the candidates directly, Dodson said.

“We are going to publicize, do some precinct walking and encourage our individual members to donate to their campaigns,” she said. “What we won’t do is an independent expenditure.”

The dissolution of the PAC came after what Dodson called a “change of climate” at City Hall, including the hiring of a new City manager and turnover in several other top posts, such as planning director.

To better nurture those relationships, the Chamber is looking to hire a government affairs specialist, chamber officials announced earlier this month.

Although the PAC has been dissolved, O’Day and Holbrook can expect plenty of support from the more than 1,000 member business community, financially and otherwise, Dodson said.

It came as no surprise that the chamber would endorse Holbrook, a pharmacist who has served on the council for 16 years and spearheaded opposition on the council to the majority long held by Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), the city’s powerful tenants group.

"Bob's voting record has shown that he understands the value of having a vibrant business community that financially supports Santa Monica's high quality of life," said Tom Larmore, Chairman Elect of the Chamber Board.

Meanwhile, Terry O’Day -- whom Dodson called “a breath of fresh air” on the Planning Commission for the past three years -- appears to be a different kind of candidate for the chamber.

A homeowner in the Pico Neighborhood, O’Day contemplated seeking the SMRR endorsement, but missed the deadline for filing his candidate questionnaire. He does, however, have a business background, having owned an alternative fuel car rental company in Los Angeles before being named executive director of the local non-profit, Environment Now,

"Terry has helped the Planning Commission become more effective,” Dodson said. “He will bring these skills to the City Council, where he will focus on major policy issues.”

Among the issues O’Day is expected to champion is “finding creative solutions to Santa Monica's parking problems, supporting light rail and metro public transportation and pushing for a land use plan that will resolve Santa Monica's housing issues," Dodson said.

Chamber Board Chair John Bohn said the two candidates share the group’s vision for Santa Monica.

“The most important business issues are the same as those of local residents, including finding solutions to homelessness, reducing traffic, dealing proactively with Santa Monica's lack of parking, and continuing to support strong schools," said Bohn.

Holbrook, who has traditionally headed a slate opposing SMRR, and O’Day, who has said he will run as an independent, face stiff competition against the tenant group’s ticket composed of Council members Pam O’Connor and Kevin McKeown and education activist Gleam Davis.

Six other candidates have submitted signed petitions to the City Clerk to run for the three open council seats.

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