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Few Applicants Jump in to Fill Vacant Council Seat

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By Jorge Casuso

June 14, 2021 -- The bid to fill Kevin McKeown's seat on the City Council is off to a slow start, with 14 candidates submitting applications since the process kicked off Wednesday.

That compares with 35 candidates who applied during the same period for an open seat in January 2019 and a record 115 total applicants for a vacant seat last July.

Of the 14 candidates vying for a Council appointment, four are former or current elected or appointed officials, while the rest are newcomers to the Santa Monica political scene.

The most recognizable applicants are former Rent Control Board member Robert Kronovet; Planning Commissioner Mario Fonda-Bonardi, who finished a distant eighth in the 2020 Council race, and retired City Clerk Maria Stewart, who said she would serve until the next election.

All three have applied to fill vacant seats in the past.

Jones of the Bay

Lana Negrete, a member of the newly formed Public Safety and Reform Oversight Commission, is the only other member of a board or commission who has applied.

There is still plenty of time for candidates to enter the running after the Council extended the application period an extra week to next Tuesday.

Typically, many of the front runners submit last-minute applications.

That was the case in January 2019 when a former mayor, two Planning Commissioners, two School Board members, a Rent Control Board member and a member of the College Board of Trustees submitted their applications on the last day.

The Council chose Ana Jara, a Pico Neighborhood resident with no elected or appointed experience, to fill the seat vacated by Tony Vazquez, the City's first Latino Councilmember, after he won a seat on the State Board of Equalization.

The current vacancy was declared on June 1, one week after McKeown, who was first elected in 1998, abruptly resigned near the middle of his sixth four-year term.

McKeown is the third Councilmember in the last two and a half years to vacate his seat before his term expires.

The two others were Vazquez and Greg Morena, who resigned after learning his position barred him from renegotiating his restaurant lease with the City.

Councilmember Kristin McCowan was appointed last July to fill the vacancy until the November election, which she won in an uncontested race.

According to the City Charter, any Council vacancy "shall be filled by appointment by the City Council, with the appointee holding office until the first Tuesday following the next general municipal election."

Should the Council fail to fill the vacancy within 30 days, a special election would be held. That election, said City Clerk Denise Anderson-Warren, would cost the City $528,000.

If the Council makes an appointment, the chosen applicant would become the third member of the Council initially appointed to their seat.

In addition to McCowan, Councilmember Gleam Davis was appointed in 2009 to replace longtime Council member Herb Katz after he died in office.

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