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Mayor Kicks off Bid to Wrest Control from SMRR

By Jorge Casuso

February 21 -- Marking an early start to what promises to be a hotly contested race for three City Council seats, Mayor Bob Holbrook kicked off his campaign for reelection last week with a fundraiser for friends and longtime supporters.

The mayor, who will be seeking a fifth four-year term on the City Council in November, said he hopes to head a slate that will wrest control of local government from the Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) political “machine,” which holds a four to three majority on the council.

“This is going to be a tough election,” Holbrook told some fifty supporters gathered at the Best Western Gateway Hotel Thursday. “The renters rights people can’t afford to lose a seat, and they will fight to the last breath.”

Holbrook blasted SMRR for over-regulating the municipal government the powerful renters’ group has controlled since taking over City Hall a quarter century ago.

“The City culture has been regulate, regulate and further regulate, investigate, investigate, investigate, then enforce, enforce, enforce,” Holbrook said. “My philosophy of government is that we only regulate as a last resort.”

Holbrook hopes the early campaign kick-off will attract at least one strong candidate in what will likely be a crowded race for three council seats.

“It’s important that we identify people early to run for office,” Holbrook said. “We’ll try to find out who will be the strongest candidate.”

Holbrook alluded to talk of a “secret candidate,” and confirmed that his campaign has been courting a well-known Santa Monican to be one of his running mates. But he declined to identify or to even provide a hint as to who it might be.

A source close to the campaign said it was a well-known person inside the city, but declined to elaborate. The candidate, sources said, is expected to decide in the next few weeks whether to enter the race.

Holbrook’s slate will count on the extensive network of the rich and famous tapped two years ago by his campaign’s co-chair Bobby Shriver, a member of the Kennedy family.

“Running for office costs money,” said Shriver, who shattered all local fundraising records by garnering some $400,000 in $250 donations in 2004. “Fundraising is the name of the game.

“We need to raise money for them, and we need to do it right away,” Shriver said. “I’m going to dragoon my 20 or 30 friends,” added Shriver, who counted on the support of the likes of Steven Speilberg, Clint Eastwood, Oprah Winfrey and Warren Buffet.

His first campaign speech indicates that Holbrook, like Shriver, will run a campaign that focuses on making City Hall more responsive.

“People wanted to express anger at misbehavior by City government,” Shriver said. “That message got home to people (in 2004). People will find that the City is more responsive than it used to be.”

Holbrook -- who is seeking reelection along with SMRR incumbents Pam O’Connor and Kevin McKeown -- echoed the message.

“We’re fully committed to being on the right road,” he told the crowd. “We’re finally paying attention to what the residents want us to do.

“We have to resolve the homeless problem and do something about the traffic and parking problems,” Holbrook said. “And yet we spend hours and hours and hours talking about the ground squirrels.”

Holbrook, who in the past has criticized the council for taking a position on logging policies in the Pacific Northwest and trade policies in Burma, was referring to the months of controversy and council discussion sparked by the need to eliminate ground squirrels in Palisades Park. (see story)

“The big issues weren’t taken care of,” Holbrook said. “Next fall, it’s important to elect a council that will deal with issues that are important for residents of Santa Monica.”

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