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SMRR Backs Incumbents

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Santa Monica

Santa Monica Apartments

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By Jorge Casuso

August 31, 2020 -- Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR) -- the city's most powerful political organization -- backed 12 incumbents in the race for 14 open seats on the City Council and three local Boards at its convention Sunday.

Councilmembers Gleam Davis, Ana Jara and Ted Winterer -- who are running for four open four-year seats -- received the necessary 55 percent of the approximately 150 votes cast during the powerful political group's first virtual convention.

Challenger Mario Fonda-Bonardi, a Planning Commissioner running November 3 on a slow-growth slate, failed to make the threshold, while an effort by Mayor Kevin McKeown to nominate incumbent Terry O'Day also failed.

O'Day missed the August 8 deadline for candidates to notify the group they would be seeking an endorsement, said SMRR Co-Chair Denny Zane.

"The SMRR Steering Committee had determined Terry O'Day had not met the procedure for timely request for consideration, so he was not eligible," Zane said.

The deadlines were noticed on SMRR's newsletter, Zane said, dismissing complaiants by several candidates that they were not invited to apply.

"SMRR has never solicited all the candidates in 40 years," he said. "People come to us and ask for the endorsement."

SMRR will not endose a candidate for the fourth open four-year seat, Zane said.

This year's narrow field of Council candidates seeking SMRR's endoresent matches the group's 40-year low of four hopefuls in 2018, when there were only three open seats ("Only Four Council Candiidates to Vie for SMRR Endorsement," August 24)..

Councilmember Kristin McCowan, who is running uncontested for a two-year seat in November, also won the SMRR endorsement on Sunday. She was appointed last month to fill the vacancy left after Greg Morena resigned from the Council for business reasons.

In the race for three open School Board seats, SMRR incumbents Maria Leon Vazquez and Jon Kean won the group's backing.

Jen Smith, who is among the challengers hoping to fill the seat vacated by Ralph Mechur, also was endorsed by the SMRR membership Sunday.

Two of the other School Board challengers -- Jason Feldman and Keith Coleman -- also sought the group's backing.

Mechur, who was endorsed by SMRR in his two previous School Board bids, is not seeking reelection.

The three SMRR incumbents in the race for College Board -- Susan Aminoff, Margaret Quinoses-Perez and Rob Rader -- all were endorsed on Sunday, as were Rent Control Board incumbents Caroline M. Torosis and Anastasia Foster.

SMRR members also voted to endorse two measures on the November 3 ballot.

The measures -- which the City Council unanimously voted to place on the ballot last Tuesday -- require a simple majority of the vote.

Measure SM would double the real estate transfer tax on sales exceeding $5 million from $3 to $6 per $1,000 to help pay for essential City services slashed after the coronavirus emergency all but shut down the local economy.

Measure AB would open up the City's hiring process by removing two provisions from the City charter that require "vacant positions to be filled using a closed internal promotional recruitment" and "selecting from only the top three highest ranked internal candidates."

SMRR's virtual convention was missing what has traditionally been one of the group's most influential forces -- the large number of seniors who usually attend, Zane said.

"In previous years, we would have a very strong cohort of seniors," the former-mayor and one of the group's founders said. "This year (the attendees) skewed younger.

"Whether that was representative of SMRR's rank and file will be debated for years," Zane said.

For four decades, SMMR's convention has been a cornerstone of Santa Monica's election season, generating heated floor debate and sometimes intriguing behind-the-scenes moves to win the coveted endorsement.

SMRR’s backing gives a candidate well-funded campaign support and a stamp of approval among Santa Monica's majority tenant electorate.

SMRR-backed candidates hold nearly every elected seat in Santa Monica.

All seven Council members were either appointed by the SMRR-controlled Council or elected with the group's backing.

All but one of the current School Board members was elected with SMRR’s backing, and every member of the current SMC board received the group’s support.

Only one candidate in the rent board’s 41-year history -- Robert Kronovet -- has been elected without a SMRR endorsement. Kronovet is running to regain the seat he lost in 2016.

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