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Former Santa Monica Officials Win Big

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By Jorge Casuso

December 8, 2022 -- Former Santa Monica City officials swept to easy victories in elections across LA County last month, while a major local political force saw mixed results.

The victorious candidates include a former City Councilmember, two former School Board members and two high-ranking members of the police force.

Former City Councilmember Tony Vazquez was reelected by a landslide to the State Board of Equalization with 1,484,626 votes to independent challenger Y. Marie Manvel's 623,017 votes.

Vazquez was first elected to the Council in 1990 and served four years before losing his seat. He was elected again in 2012 and became the City's first Latino mayor in 2015.

Vazquez left the Council in 2018 after winning a seat on the five-member State Board that plays a significant role in the assessment and administration of property taxes.

Former Santa Monica-Malibu School Board member Julia Brownley handily won her reelection bid in the 26th Congressional District by defeating Republican challenger Matt Jacobs 13,140 votes to 9,179.

Ben Allen, who also served on the School Board, easily retained his 24th District State Senate seat, which includes Santa Monica, with 248,642 votes, more than double the 121,809 votes garnered by Republican challenger Kristina Irwin.

Allen, who was first elected to the California Senate in 2014, chairs the Environmental Quality Committee and the Joint Committee on the Arts.

By far the biggest vote margin was scored by former Santa Monica Police Chief James T Butts, Jr., who was reelected to a fourth term as mayor of Inglewood.

Butts -- who served as Santa Monica Police Chief from 1991 to 2006 -- won with 12,062 votes, more than the 10,416 votes for the other five candidates combined.

Meanwhile, former Santa Monica Police Captain Alex Padilla was reelected to the Inglewood City Council, easily winning with 3,823 votes against challenger Bobby Brown, who had 1,924 votes.

Padilla served for more than 30 years on the Santa Monica police force, retiring as a captain in 2009. He has faced little or no opposition since being elected to the Inglewood City Council in 2013.

In contrast to former Santa Monica officials who all won easy victories, Unite HERE Local 11 saw mixed results in key council races in LA County.

In Santa Monica, the hotel workers union saw two of the three candidates it endorsed easily take the two top spots but failed to oust Councilmember Lana Negrete.

Negrete finished a distant third in the race for three Council seats after weathering a relentless negative campaign waged by the union tying her to extremist Republicans.

The results were different in neighboring West Hollywood, where only one union-backed candidate was elected -- Chelsea Byers, a West Hollywood human services commissioner who moved to the city two years ago, finished second in the race for three seats.

Mayor Lauren Meister -- who was backed by the Chamber of Commerce and law enforcement -- finished first with 6,070 votes, more than 2,000 votes ahead of Byers.

Meister, along with former Councilmember John Duran, who failed in his comeback bid, were the target of a Unite HERE mailer accusing them of representing "Republican business interests," a tactic similar to the one used against Negrete in Santa Monica.

Former Councilmember John Heilman took the third seat with 3,917 votes, 13 votes ahead of Zekiah N. Wright, who was endorsed by Unite HERE. Robert Oliver, who was also endorsed by the union, finished fifth.

Heilman, who served on the Council for 36 years, regained a seat after losing to two younger, more liberal candidates in 2020.

The hotel workers union fared much better in Long Beach, where union-backed candidate Rex Richardson won the mayor's race, while two of the three Council candidates endorsed by the union also won.

Unite HERE also made a strong showing in Los Angeles, where union-backed candidates took three of the four open seats on the City Council.

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