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Election Season Kicks Off in Santa Monica Next Week
By Jorge Casuso
July 11, 2018 -- The contests are starting to take shape as Santa Monica kicks off another election season Monday, the first day candidates can begin pulling nomination papers for the November 6 races.
Candidates for City Council, Rent Control Board and the School and College boards have until August 10 at 5 p.m. to file their nominating petitions signed by at least 100 registered voters in their jurisdiction.
If an incumbent chooses not to run, the deadline would be extended to August 15 at 5 p.m.
For the City of Santa Monica's election calendar click here
Based on recent history, incumbents will once again be the heavy favorites, with all 11 seated officials winning by wide margins in 2016.
In fact, over the past 24 years, only two Council incumbents -- Tony Vazquez in 1994 and Mike Feinstein in 2004 -- have failed to hold on to their seats. Vazquez regained it in 2012.
Over the same period, only four School Board incumbents have failed to win re-election.
Two of the three City Councilmembers whose terms will expire -- Sue Himmelrich and Kevin McKeown -- have announced they will seek re-election.
The third, Pam O'Connor, has not yet indicated if she will run for a record seventh four-year term.
Three seats on the five-member Rent Board -- those of members Nicole Phillis, Steve Duron and Todd Flora -- are open in November. Phillis and Duron are expected to run for re-election.
Flora has been termed out after serving eight years. The Rent Board is the only local body with term limits, which is part of the Rent Control charter
In the race for four School Board seats incumbents Oscar de la Torre, Craig Foster, Laurie Leiberman and Dr. Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein have all said they are running for re-election.
In the race for four College Board seats, incumbents Barry Snell, Dr. Nancy Greenstein and Dr. Louise Jaffe are running for re-election. Dr. Andrew Walzer has said he does not plan to run, paving the way for a new Board member.
In 2016, the three incumbents faced only one challenger, Sion Roy.
Voters also will be asked to decide the fate of several measures on the November 6 ballot.
Last Thursday, the City Clerk certified Measure TL, which would amend the City Charter to limit council members to three terms ("Santa Monica Voters to Decide Term Limits for Council in November," July 5, 2017).
Last month, the City Council voted to draft a Charter Amendment setting a 2018 base rent if California voters repeal vacancy decontrol ("Santa Monica Council Votes to Explore Scaled-Down Rental Ballot Measure," June 27, 218).
The Council had been urged by Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR) to draft measures to expanded local rent control and set a tax to build affordable housing.
The board decided to study the proposals, which were staunchly opposed by property owners, before deciding whether to place them on a future ballot.
The School Board also is exploring placing a bond on the ballot ("Santa Monica-Malibu School Board Looks at Potential $485 Million Bond Measure for November Ballot," May 1, 2018).
Since 2002, local voters have approved two bond measures totaling $643 million, as well as a $346 per year parcel tax with no sunset provision.
But two measures have failed -- a $300-per-parcel tax in 2002 and a $198-per-parcel tax in 2010.
Although unlikely, there is a chance the Council races could be impacted by a voting rights lawsuit that seeks to replace Santa Monica's at-large election system with districts.
Palmdale -- the only other California city that has chosen to fight the prospect of redistricting in court -- was forced to postpone its elections in 2012 from November to January 2013 after the districts were drawn.
The lawsuit against the City of Santa Monica -- which goes to trail on July 30 -- is on a similar time line, according to the plaintiff's attorney ("Judge Tosses City of Santa Monica's Motion to Dismiss Voting Rights Lawsuit," June 18, 2018).
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