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SMRR Slate Practically Set Months Before Election

By Jorge Casuso

July 28 -- For the first time in more than two decades, there may be no battle needed to win the Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) endorsement for City Council.

More than one week before the SMRR convention August 6, only three potential candidates -- Council members Pam O’Connor and Kevin McKeown, along with challenger Gleam Davis -- will be vying for the powerful tenant group’s nod in the race for three open council seats.

The three, however, must each get at least 55 percent of the vote to win the nod at the convention, where SMRR members will also pick slates for the School, College are Rent Control boards.

“It is very unusual,” said former Mayor Dennis Zane, the group’s co chair. “It’s certainly simpler, but there were good candidates,” he said, mentioning Planning Commissioner Terry O’Day, who had indicated he would seek the SMRR endorsement for three open council seats.

“They’re three strong candidates that could very well have won in any event,” Zane said. “While there isn’t the drama, the quality of the candidates is very satisfactory.”

O’Day fell out of the running when he failed to submit his answers to the SMRR candidate questionnaire five days before this Saturday’s interviews with the group’s steering committee.

“I’m deadline oriented, but it did not occur to me that it would be codified in the bylaws,” O’Day said. “I didn’t give the deadline enough attention.”

But O’Day said he had already been wrestling with his decision to seek the group’s endorsement, which guarantees a hefty campaign war chest for the group’s slate and a well-oiled political machine to get out the vote.

“It was something I was already grappling with,” he said. “The deadline for the questionnaire forced the issue.”

A week earlier 100 members of Santa Monica’s business community held a meet-and-greet for O’Day at Shutters on the Beach Hotel, whose owners are a powerful anti-SMRR force in town.

“I got heat from a small element within SMRR, just like I got heat from the right for seeking the SMRR endorsement,” said O’Day, who is executive director of Environment Now. “This polarization is deeply frustrating.

“I respect SMRR, but I think I can accomplish more and still retain my progressive values outside of SMRR,” O’Day said. “I plan to run as an independent. I believe I can win.”

Longtime SMRR leaders had a hard time remembering the last time there was an uncontested race to win the group’s nod.

“It’s been so long I don’t even remember,” said Zane, one of the founders of the 27-year-old group.

“I think it might have been a long, long time ago,” said Steve Alpert, the dean of SMRR history and lore. “I have a feeling in ‘81 or ‘83 we had that, but I couldn’t be sure. It’s a very rare situation.”

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