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SMRR Picks Council Slate


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By Jorge Casuso

June 24, 2024 -- Santa Monica's political establishment is poised to present a united front in the November race for City Council, after its powerful tenants rights group easily picked a slate Saturday.

Some 200 Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR) members voted to endorse Santa Monica College Trustee Barry Snell, Planning Commission Chair Ellis Raskin, Natalya Zernitskaya and Pier Corporation Board member Dan Hall.

In an unuaual show of cohesion, the four candidates in the November 5 race for four open Council seats -- all of them renters -- received the required majority of votes needed on the first ballot.

Rent Control Board Chair Ericka Lesley, a staunch tenants rights advocate, fell short of the required 50 percent.

"It may have been the easiest convention ever," said Patricia Hoffman, a member of the SMRR steering Committee.

Hoffman expects the result will be reproduced when members of the Santa Monica Democratic Club meet online on Wednesday to pick their slate, averting the split with SMRR that dashed the political establishment's efforts to regain a council majority two years ago.

"I expect it will be easy there, although Ericka (Lesley) may do better depending on the turnout," said Hoffman, who is also a member of the Dem Club's executive committee.

"It should be a lot easier than it's been" to field a united front, Hoffman said.

Two years ago, Raskin, who is a member of SMRR's Steering Committee, won the group's endorsement, while the Dem Club broke ranks and backed Zernitskaya, who is a member of the Club's Executive Committee.

The two candidates split the liberal establishment vote, paving the way for the re-election of Councilmember Lana Negrete, who is aligned with the Change faction on the Council.

Santa Monica's political establishment must win two seats in November to regain the Council majority it has held for most of the past four decades before losing it to Change candidates swept into office during a voter revolt in 2020.

Of the three Change incumbents whose terms expire this year, only Councilmember Oscar de la Torre has indicated he will run. Mayor Phil Brock and Councilmember Christine Parra said they have not yet made a decision.

Councilmember Gleam Davis, who has been backed by SMRR and the Dem Club in the past, announced she will not seek reelection.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article stated that Santa Monica's political establishment must win two seats in November to regain the Council majority. It needs two seats.

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