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What's at Stake?

The Empty Seat

Bloom Wins in Landslide:
Tenants Group Gains Super Majority

By Jorge Casuso
and Josh Grossberg

April, 26--In the state's first weekend election, candidate Richard Bloom trounced Susan Cloke and five others Sunday night to give the powerful tenants group a fifth seat on the seven-member Santa Monica City Council.

With all of the precincts counted, Bloom, who was endorsed by Santa Monicans for Renters Rights, received 7,724 votes (54 percent) nearly 3,000 votes more than runner up Susan Cloke, who received 4,798 votes (33 percent). The five other candidates each received less than 1,000 votes.

From left: SMRR council members, Ken Genser
and Kevin McKeown, newly elected Councilman
Richard Bloom and Mayor Pam O'Connor

In another resounding victory for renters, Prop.1, a SMRR-sponsored ballot measure that bolsters tenant protections against evictions, won with 10,077 votes in favor to 3,939 against.

"My message has been resonating with the voters of Santa Monica," said Bloom, who fell just 92 votes short of winning a seat in November. "We've achieved the victory that we set out to achieve in November. Tonight we've proven that we are for real. We're going to work together to make this a city that is for everybody."

A Sunset Park homeowner and community leader, Bloom vowed to protect tenants from eviction as rents rise under a new state law and to stop rampant development he believes is snarling the city with traffic.

Cloke, who finished nearly 1,800 votes behind Bloom in November, saw her rival's margin widen despite one of the lowest turnouts in recent memory.

"I think I was up against an incredible organization that has a well-orchestrated election formula that they use," said Cloke, a former planning commissioner who currently sits on the city's Recreation and Parks board. "I always think it's important to have balance. I don't believe this council is balanced."

Cloke blamed the lopsided victory in part on a mailer she said falsely accused her of evicting tenants from a Venice apartment complex to make way for a condominium development.

"If I were a tenant and got a mailing like that, I'd be suspicious," said Cloke, who sent off two anonymous last-minute pieces attacking Bloom. "I hope they will be angry" when they find out the truth, she added.

A cursory analysis of the results - which don't include provisional ballots or late arriving absentee votes -- show that Cloke failed to garner enough tenant support to stand a chance. In addition, she was soundly defeated in the absentee ballots traditionally cast by more conservative, affluent voters, 2,469 to 1,595.

"She didn't get many moderates," said Steve Alpert, who analyzes results for SMRR. "She didn't make any inroads to the moderates, even though she is a woman."

Cloke's defeat leaves Mayor Pam O'Connor as the only woman on the council, something the Mayor says she doesn't mind.

"Everybody on the council is dedicated," O'Connor said. "We'll even disagree among ourselves."

Independent candidate Frank Juarez finished a distant third with 676 votes (5 percent), followed by Peter Kerndt with 443 (3 percent), Marc Sanschagrin, with 394 (3 percent), Don Gray with 198 (1 percent) and Jon Stevens with 98 (1 percent).

The state's first two-day weekend election got off to a slow start Saturday with a miniscule turnout that was only bolstered by an inordinate number of absentee ballots.

"It makes you nervous, but it makes sense also," said former mayor Dennis Zane, a SMRR leader. "There's no urgency about Saturday, cause there's Sunday. And there's a big absentee vote, compared to what you would expect."

But Cloke said Sunday afternoon that it was also hard to get voters to the polls on the second election day.

"People didn't seem to mind being called yesterday," Cloke said. "But they seem to mind being called on a Sunday."

All weekend long SMRR and Cloke's rival camp were busy phoning voters and walking precincts. Her camp includes volunteers, as well as paid workers. In addition, a flurry of Cloke's campaign pieces hit mailboxes and doorknobs this week.

SMRR, which has raised more than $40,000, counted on some 90 volunteers, many of them from the Hotel Workers and Restaurant Workers Union. The politically powerful tenants group also sent out four mailers during the last week and distributed door hangers. The effort was boosted by mailers from Bloom, who has raised more than $20,000; Mayor Pam O'Connor, who sent a letter to constituents, and the police and firefighters' unions, which have sent out two joint campaign pieces supporting Bloom.

Cloke, who has raised more than $40,000, also has sent a steady stream of campaign mailers, several during the final week. In addition, she has sent out three anonymous pieces, two of them attacking Bloom. Cloke said the attribution was inadvertently left off the literature.

Cloke was clearly counting on the fact that she was the only woman on the ballot, a message she has highlighted in a recent campaign mailer, during several debates and in phone calls made over the weekend.

Lookout Political Columnist Crystal Castle also contributed

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