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Democratic Club Makes Same Endorsements as SMRR  

By Jonathan Friedman
Lookout Staff

September 16, 2010 -- It was déjà vu at the Santa Monica Democratic Club’s candidate endorsement meeting on Monday. The club members voted to endorse the same candidates in the school board and City Council races as the powerful Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights chose to back last month.

The only difference was all the candidate on Monday earned their endorsements through votes by the approximately 75 members in attendance at the Santa Monica Playhouse, while some of those backed by SMRR earned their support during a special meeting by the Steering Committee after failing to gain endorsements at the convention.

Incumbents Kevin McKeown and Pam O’Connor and challenger Ted Winterer earned endorsements in the race for three four-year seats on the council. The only other person who asked for one was Linda Armstrong, but she did not attend the meeting. The endorsements for two two-year seats on the council went to appointed incumbents Gleam Davis and Terry O’Day. Neighborhood activist Susan Hartley had also requested support.

Earning endorsements for the four seats on the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s Board of Education were incumbents Oscar de la Torre, Barry Snell and Ralph Mechur and challenger Laurie Lieberman.

Prior to the meeting, the club’s executive committee had made recommendations for endorsements. There were slight differences between the committee’s recommendations and the endorsements. The committee had only recommended McKeown and Winterer for the four-year council race, and did not make a third selection. It recommended Hartley rather than O’Day for the two-year council race. And it recommended Malibu resident Patrick Cady rather than Laurie Lieberman in the school board contest.

Hartley said after the meeting she was “surprised and thrilled” to get the executive committee’s support, but was not expecting to get an endorsement from the club members.

“The Santa Monica Democratic Club is aka SMRR,” Hartley said. “And I did not apply for or get the SMRR endorsement.”

She said she appreciates SMRR’s accomplishments from three decades ago regarding rent control, but she said the organization has long since lost its focus and many of the people who control it are not tenants. Hartley said the lack of SMRR and Democratic Club endorsements do not make it impossible for her to win in November.

“I have grass-roots support,” Hartley said. “I have broad-based community support. I have tenant support.”

O’Day said getting the Democratic Club backing was important because the Democrats must be united against a Republican threat.

“It’s important that we stick together,” said O’Day, who said he read The Lookout’s article on Republican candidates Robert Kronovet (two-year race) and Jean McNeil Wyner (four-year race). It showed they are offering a challenge that must be met. See

“There are real differences in the election, particularly around ballot measures and it’s very important that we crowd as a progressive community and show up at the polls,” O’Day said.

The candidates in each race went through question and answer sessions from the members, and were allowed to make opening and closing remarks. The liveliest session was the one for the school board candidates. Seven candidates were seeking the four endorsements (Cady, Nimish Patel and Chris Bley were the others).

Bley read off some numbers that he said showed the SMMUSD wastes money on various programs at the expense of teacher jobs. A person in the audience quietly referred to his information with an expletive.

“I heard somebody say it’s B.S.,” said Bley in response. “It’s right here from the California Department of Education. You can look at it yourself.”

When a question was asked about whether there could be improvement at the District’s middle schools, two-term incumbent de la Torre said he had made “middle school reform” a needed milestone for SMMUSD Superintendent Tim Cuneo, and Cuneo had failed to accomplish this.

“If I had the votes on the school board right now, I would fire the superintendent because I think we have had some poor leadership in our school district,” de la Torre said. “And I would want to see some change. Being on the school board one more term, I’ll make sure this institutional change occurs, especially at the middle schools.”


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