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Another Clean Sweep for SMRR-Backed Board Candidates

By Jorge Casuso

November 6 – For the second election in a row, every candidate endorsed by Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) won all the contested seats on the School, College and Rent Control boards.

The powerful tenants group continues to hold all 14 seats on the School and College boards and all five seats on the Rent Board.

Ironically, the smallest margin of victory was in the usually lopsided race for two seats on the Rent Board, where Robert Kronovet fell just 556 votes short of becoming the first SMRR challenger to win a seat since the board was created three decades ago.

School Board incumbent Dr. Jose Escarce also found himself in a hotly contested race for three seats on the School Board, beating out challenger Chris Bley by little more than 1,000 votes and falling more than 3,000 votes shy of first place finisher Ben Allen.

Capitalizing on widespread discontent with the sitting board, Allen, a newcomer to the Santa Monica political scene, thrived in a year when “change” was the catch-word from the presidential race at the top of the ticket to the local board races at the bottom.

Ben Allen – who was student body president at Santa Monica High School and the student member on the University of California Board of Regents -- garnered 20,842 votes, followed by incumbent Maria Leon Vazquez with 20,059 votes.

The reelection of Escarce, a UCLA professor of medicine who was recently elected to the prestigious Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, was an uphill battle from the start.

Escarce won the endorsement of the SMRR steering committee to serve a third four-year term after falling short of the necessary votes at the tenant group’s convention in August, where he was opposed by parents who blamed him for supporting the district’s failed special education policies.

Despite winning the support of both SMRR and the teachers union, Escarce found himself in a tight race with a political unknown, picking up 17,616 votes to Bley’s 16,539.

A newcomer to the political scene, Bley raised nearly $20,000 thanks to large contributions from family and friends. In fact, he raised more than the combined $12,771 raised by the three other candidates in the race.

Bley mounted a prodigious door-to-door campaign that personally reached most Santa Monica and Malibu households. He made an especially strong push in Malibu, which found itself without a local candidate to back.

But in the end, the effort was not enough to counteract the $90,592 raised by SMRR and the lack of key Santa Monica endorsements.

The race for three open seats on the College Board was the least contested of the local board races, with the three SMRR-backed incumbents easily retaining their seats.

Susan Aminoff finished first with 19,495 votes, followed closely behind by fellow incumbents Rob Rader, with 18,937 votes, and Dr. Margaret Quiñones-Perez, with 18,195 votes.

Challenger Heidi Hoeck finished a distant fourth with 11,983 votes.

In the race for Rent Board, incumbent chair Joel Koury won in a landslide with 18,045 votes, followed by Christopher Braun, with 12,119 votes. Both were backed by SMRR.

Kronovet, a Republican broker and property manager, finished a a close third with 11,543 votes. Kronovet, who fell 5,000 votes in his rent board bid two years ago mounted a professional campaign for his office, counting on the volunteer work of the Republican Women’s Club.

Had he won, Kronovet would have been the first landlord representative on the rent board, which was established when Rent Control was adopted 30 years ago.

In 2006, SMRR made a clean sweep in the races for the School, College and Rent Control boards, winning a total of 11 seats.

The powerful tenants group continues to hold all 14 seats on the School and College boards and all five seats on the Rent Board.





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