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Negrete Headed Back to Council; GS, SMC Win

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By Jorge Casuso

November 17, 2022 -- With just 13.5 percent of the countywide ballots left to count, Councilmember Lana Negrete will hold on to the seat she was appointed to fill less than a year-and-a-half ago.

Mayor Sue Himmelrich's transfer tax and Santa Monica College's bond measures have also won, based on the latest results released by the County Registrar Thursday afternoon.

After another 131,611 ballots were counted, Negrete held on to the final spot in the race for three open Council seats by a sizable margin.

She leads Natalya Zernistskaya by 762 votes and Armen Melkonians by 1,141 votes with an estimated 332,550 votes left to be processed countywide. It is not known how many of those ballots were cast by Santa Monica voters.

But with Negrete's lead trimmed by only 20 votes after 329,547 votes were processed over the past three days -- a similar number to the outstanding ballots -- Negrete's lead is insurmountable.

Her victory deals a major blow to efforts by Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR) and the hotel workers union to regain control of the seven-member Council by running the most negative campaign against a local candidate in recent memory.

While Rent Control Commissioner Caroline Torosis and Jesse Zwick easily took the top two spots with the backing of SMRR and Unite HERE Local 11, thier inability to take out Negrete will give her the swing vote on a divided council.

Negrete's path to re-election was paved when the Democratic Club broke ranks with Santa Monica's liberal establishment and backed Zernitskaya ("Dem Club Membership Breaks with Tradition in 'Surprising Upset,'" September 30, 2022).

SMRR and the union backed Planning Commissioner Ellis Raskin, who remains in sixth place, more than 100 votes behind Melkonians.

Thursday's vote tally -- the seventh post-election vote count -- also cemented wins for two closely watched ballot measures.

Measure GS -- Mayor Himmelrich's $53 per $1,000 transfer tax on Santa Monica properties that sell for more than $8 million -- widened its margin on Thursday and now leads with 16,317 yes votes (52.80 percent) to 14,587 no votes (47.20 percent).

The measure bankrolled with $385,000 in contributions from Himmelrich and her husband Michael Soloff will generate an estimated $50 million a year to fund affordable housing, homelessness prevention and public schools. It needs a simple majority to win.

Also building an insurmountable lead on Thursday was Measure SMC, a $375 million bond measure to fund improvements at Santa Monica College and help build housing for homeless and low-income students.

It now leads with 56.83 percent of the vote and needs 55 percent to win.

The next ballot count update will be on Friday.

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