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Write-in Candidate Makes Santa Monica History
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Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

December 14, 2014 -- A quixotic last-minute run for a seat on the Santa Monica City Council last month failed, as expected from the outset. But the bid by write-in candidate Phil Brock did make history.

Entering the fray just two weeks before the November 8 election, Brock garnered 1,049 votes -- about 75 votes per day and an almost five-fold increase over the last designated write-in candidate who was not an incumbent, a final vote tally showed Tuesday.

After the election, Brock praised voters for making the rare choice in Santa Monica of voting for a write-in candidate.

“I want to thank the 1,049 Santa Monica voters who did something most people have never done,” he said on a Facebook post December 10. “They took the time and made the effort to do something extraordinary. They wrote in "Phil Brock" on their November 8th ballot. A personal thanks to each one of you.”

“I will continue to speak out on issues of importance in Santa Monica and promise to be on the ballot in 2018,” he said.

The race’s top vote getter was Terry O’Day, who received 19,263 votes, or 16.32 percent of all cast, according to the final tally. Challenger Jon Mann received the least votes among the 10 regular candidates with 3,959 (3.35 percent).

The City Clerk’s Office, which helps run local elections, shows only three other official write-in council candidates since the mid-1970s.

Council Member Dolores Press launched a write-in campaign in 1984 after failing to garner the necessary number of valid signatures on her nominating petitions ("Write-In Candidacy Path Rarely Chosen in Santa Monica," October 21, 2016).

After a failed legal battle, Press, who had the backing of Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR), the city's powerful tenants group, received 12,652 votes as a write-in candidate, finishing 7th in a ten-way race for four seats.

Aside from Brock, only two write-in candidates who weren’t already on the council have launched a write-in bid over the past four decades.

Terence Later, a life-long resident, ran as a designated write-in challenger in 2008 and received 238 votes. He did far better as a regular candidate in his most recent council bid in November. His sixth try, Later earned 5,102 votes last month (or 4.32 percent), the final canvass found.

The other write-in campaigner, bar owner Jeff Decker, received 56 votes in 2010.

The difference in this case is that Brock already had high name recognition in Santa Monica. A slow-growth activist, he placed fourth in the council race for three seats in 2014.

He considered running for school board this year, but later decided against it ("Brock Drops from Santa Monica-Malibu School Board Race as Possible Field of Four Forms," August 18, 2016).

Brock also had decided against a council run but said he changed his mind after many associates said they were unhappy with the bitter tone of the election season and were going to write his name in for council.

He said the only way those votes could be counted was if he submitted qualifying signatures and secured a spot a certified write-in designation.

Brock submitted his papers to become a designated write-in candidate on October 25, the last possible day. Other candidates had started collecting nominating signatures as early as July.

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