Shriver Victory Gap Largest in 20 Years
By Olin Ericksen
December 13 -- It's not so much that Bobby Shriver captured more votes than any other City Council candidate in Santa Monica since 1984; it was the way he won -- besting his closest rival by more than 5,000 votes, according to an analysis of the Los Angeles County Clerk's final official tally.
With all absentee and regular votes counted, 23,260 Santa Monicans, representing 17 percent of the total vote, cast their ballot for the Kennedy descendent in the November 2 race for four open council seats, according to the County Clerk. (Final tallies)
His nearest contender was incumbent Mayor Richard Bloom, who received more than 16,700 votes, or 12 percent of the total vote.
Not since the late City Councilman Ken Edwards garnered nearly 26,000 votes 20 years ago -- nearly 6,000 more votes than his closest challenger -- has a council candidate won with such a commanding showing.
"Shriver, like Edwards, spoke in a big picture way," said Sharon Gilpen, a longtime political observer and consultant who has run campaigns for local candidates, including former Councilman Michael Feinstein.
Gilpin, who worked with Edwards before Santa Monica for Renter's Rights (SMRR) came to power in the early 1980's, drew a connection between Shriver and Ken Edwards, whom she described as "progressive" and one of Santa Monica's "great unifiers."
Shriver's margin of victory "impresses me more because of the broad number of votes he received above SMRR and says that there is a growing group of people looking beyond the same issues," Gilpin said.
A look back at other City elections held during a presidential contest reveals that Shriver's margin of victory was more than twice that of any council candidate since 1988. In the council races during the past four presidential contests, no candidate has won by more than 2,000 votes.
That gap is significant says longtime political observer Steve Alpert, who has been active in City politics for nearly 30 years.
"His vote total was not impressive, but the gap sure is," said Alpert, who noted that Shriver's appeal was "broad."
Alpert, a long-time member of SMRR's Steering Committee, noted that aside from a few precincts in the Pico neighborhood, Shriver won 59 of the City's 66 precincts, including 44 normally dominated by SMRR candidates, said Alpert.
Shriver's name recognition and ability to appeal to the business community as well as renters gave the political newcomer his decisive victory, Alpert said. So did money.
While Shriver's substantial warchest of more than $170,000 helped drive his sweeping victory, Alpert believes money spent by special interest groups -- such as political action committees and political non-profit's, who papered City voters with mailers and voice messages -- made more of an impact.
"The gap I attribute to the huge amount of money spent by groups who mentioned no candidates... yet knocked the City. All the incumbents suffered from such a knock," Alpert said, noting that he believes this will be a trend into the future.
Edwards, whose name adorns the local community center, died in the 1980's of cancer, and holds the record for the most votes netted in a City Council race -- 25,780.
"Edwards was one of the City's last great states people... and would listen to any group regardless of what neighborhood you lived in," said Gilpen.
Edwards was also known for his altruistic nature.
"Ken worked as a probation officer and had an extra house here in Santa Monica that he donated as a safe house for battered women, something rare in those times," Gilpen said. "He was just a great guy."
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