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Only Four Council Candidates to Vie for SMRR Endorsement

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By Jorge Casuso

August 24, 2020 -- Only four of the 15 candidates actively running for a full term on the City Council will seek the backing of Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR) at the powerful group's convention this month.

Incumbents Gleam Davis, Ted Winterer and Ana Jara, and Planning Commissioner Mario Fonda-Bonardi will seek the SMRR endorsement in the race for four open four-year seats at the tenant group's online convention August 30.

Out of the running are incumbent Terry O'Day and School Board member Oscar de la Torre, who failed to notify SMRR by August 8 that they was seeking the group's endorsement.

O'Day -- who finished first in the 2016 Council race after narrowly failing to win the group's endorsement -- unsuccessfully tried to get the SMRR Board to reconsider.

De la Torre -- who has won every race with SMRR's backing since he was first elected in 2002 -- said he expected to receive a call, as he had in previous years, inviting him to seek an endorsement.

"I'm confused as to why I haven't been invited," de la Torre said. "I've been loyal to the platform and always got their endorsement."

According to SMRR's website, "Candidates who wish to seek SMRR’s endorsement should notify SMRR as soon as possible and in no case later than August 8."

Candidates were asked to email or mail their intention.

This year's narrow field of Council hopefuls matches the group's 40-year low of four hopefuls in 2018, when there were only three open seats.

The three candidates the group backed -- Mayor Kevin McKeown, Council member Sue Himmelrich and challenger Greg Morena -- were all elected.

Incumbent Kristin McCowan, who is running uncontested for a two-year seat in November, is seeking the group's backing. She was appointed last month to fill the vacancy left after Morena resigned for business reasons.

SMRR’s backing gives a candidate well-funded campaign support and a stamp of approval among Santa Monica's majority tenant electorate.

The two incumbents in the November 3 race for Rent Control Board are the only candidates seeking SMRR's endorsement.

In the race for three open School Board seats, SMRR incumbents Maria Leon Vazquez and Jon Kean are seeking the grouup's backing, along with challengers Jen Smith, Jason Feldman and Keith Coleman.

Incumbent Ralph Mechur, who received the group's endorsement in his two previous School Board bids, is not seeking reelection.

The three SMRR incumbents in the race for College Board are seeking endorsements. The only challenger is Brian O'Neil.

SMRR-backed candidates hold nearly every elected seat in Santa Monica.

All but one of the current School Board members was elected with SMRR’s backing. Every member of the SMC board received SMRR’s support.

Only one candidate in the rent board’s 41-year history -- Robert Kronovet -- has been elected without a SMRR endorsement.

Kronovet is currently running for a four-year seat on the Council.

Two of the 17 Council candidates have withdrawn from the race but will appear on the ballot ("OPINION -- Why We Decided to Withdraw from the Race for City Council," August 24, 2020).

Four of the seven Council members received SMRR's backing in their latest election bid, while Jara and McGowan were appointed by the SMRR majority.

SMRR will hold its 2020 Convention using the Zoom online video meeting platform on Sunday, August 30 starting at 1 p.m, according the group's website. Sign-in will start at 12:30 p.m.

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