By Jason Islas
September 14, 2012 -- After three rounds of voting Wednesday, Santa Monica's 200-hundred member Democratic Club chose to endorse only one candidate in a race for four City Council seats.
Planning Commissioner Ted Winterer -- who has described himself as a “responsible growth” candidate -- won the group's backing in the first round of voting after he received more than 60 percent of the 127 votes cast.
Approximately 75 percent of the group's membership also voted to endorse Assembly member Betsy Butler, a resident of Marina del Rey, over Mayor Richard Bloom in the race to represent Assembly District 50.
“I think fundamental to the conversation is development," said Democratic Club President Jay Johnson. "Some people were disturbed over some candidates' track records” when it comes to development, he added.
In the first round of voting, incumbent Gleam Davis fell just short of the threshold, Democratic Club officials said.
Planning Commissioner Richard McKinnon, making his first bid for council, came in third in the first round, officials said. Incumbent Terry O'Day and challengers Shari Davis and Tony Vazquez, a former council member, also survived the first round.
In the past, the Democratic Club's endorsements have paralleled those of Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR), the City's powerful tenants group.
In 2010, the Democratic Club's membership voted to endorse the same slate composed of incumbents Kevin McKeown and Pam O’Connor and challenger Winterer in the race for three four-year seats and incumbents Davis and O'Day in the race for two two-year seats.
In 2008, the Democratic Club didn't endorse Bobby Shriver -- a member of the Kennedy clan -- because he was backed by SMRR's opposition.
At the time, Julie Lopez Dad, then-Chair of the Democratic Club's Steering Committee, said of Shriver's bid, “Not receiving the endorsement of the Santa Monica Democratic Club was the result of the heavy SMRR component, which we are glad we have, in the Club.”
Despite having neither groups' endorsements, Shriver came in ahead of the other 17 candidates with 18,755 votes.
This year, however, the Club did not follow SMRR's lead.
In June, SMRR members voted to endorse incumbents Davis and O'Day, as well as Winterer. The SMRR Steering Committee met in July and voted to endorse Vazquez for the fourth open seat.
McKinnon, who, like Winterer, has taken strong stances about reducing the size of developments and increasing community benefits, did not seek SMRR's endorsement.
The fact that the membership voted to endorse only one candidate in a four-seat race shows “there is no consensus around the other candidates,” said Sharon Gilpin, Winterer's campaign manager and long-time Santa Monica political observer.
Johnson agreed, saying that Wednesday night's decision indicates “that out of 200 hundred people that are club members, there are various interests.”
But Johnson said, the vote to endorse Butler over Bloom did show an overwhelming concern of the group's membership with the issue of development.
“Mayor Bloom was perceived as too friendly to development interests,” Johnson said.
Bloom said the outcome was expected.
“The Democratic Club result did not surprise this Democrat,” Bloom wrote in a statement to The Lookout. “Nor did the outcome reflect the broader concerns of Santa Monica and assembly district Democrats, such as jobs, education and a dysfunctional government in Sacramento.”
Now that Winterer has the group's endorsement, he will benefit from its direct mail effort, telephone phone banking and door-knocking. He will also be able to use the club name, Johnson said.
As of June 30, the Club had just under $4,000 at its disposal.
Johnson said that the Santa Monica Democratic Club is “full partners” with the Palisades Democratic Club and will be reserving certain times to make phone calls out of the Palisades Club's election headquarters on the Third Street Promenade.
Wednesday's endorsements came one day after the City's powerful Public Safety Unions announced they would back incumbents Davis and O'Day and challengers Sharon Davis and Winterer. (Santa Monica's Powerful Public Safety Unions Back Two Incumbents, Two Challengers in Council Race, September 13)