You find out who your friends really are when you decide to run of office. Ask Phil Brock.
He ran for City Council in 2014 and lost by a few hundred votes. He competed against Kevin McKeown, Sue Himmelrich, and Pam O’Connor. O’Connor nudged Brock into fifth place and out of the running thanks to last minute support from deep-pocketed developers who mounted a “do or die” campaign blitz.
This time around, four council incumbents are vying for their second consecutive four year terms. Among the challengers is veteran school board member Oscar de la Torre, who desires to move up with this council bid. Armen Melkonians, founder of the slow-growth group Residocracy and co-author of the highly controversial LV Measure on the November ballot has also tossed his hat into the council ring.
Three of the four incumbents — Davis, Vazquez and Winterer — have been endorsed by the City’s most powerful political entity Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR). As a note, six of the seven current council members have received SMRR’s endorsement which many feel is absolutely vital for an election victory.
Before an election, there’s a lot of speculation about who is going to run and for what? This is real serious business because a person’s choice of office or running mate could mean the difference between winning and losing.
Many local political observers were expecting that Terry O’Day wouldn’t run for office, this time around. O’Day’s pro-development voting reputation, along with those of Gleam Davis, would cost them both slow-growth and Residocracy votes. Would it be enough to hurt their chances of being elected? Opinions varied.
Renters comprise about two-thirds of the voters. They represent a large power block with their numerical advantage. Renters most often follow SMRR’s recommendations and vote for SMRR’s endorsee “team’ especially when casting votes for more minor political offices such as Rent Control Board, where candidates are mostly unknown.
Other blocks of voters include Labor Union supporters and union members, voters who vote for Police and Fire interests and voters who support more housing — especially low-income housing. There are folks who support and vote for candidates that back environmental and conservative positions as well as so called neighborhood groups or “resident’ supporters.
In the 2014 City Council race, local civic home town activist and Recreation and Parks Commissioner Phil Brock came within a few hundred votes of dethroning incumbent, Pam O’Connor. After the election, Brock maintained an active community profile – so much so that local political followers joked that Brock was campaigning for a 2016 City Council seat.
If all four incumbents were to run for council – Vazquez, Davis, Winterer and O’Day– it would be a tough quartet to beat. If O’Day were to drop out of the running, it would be more likely that Brock and/or another high-quality challenger- led team would do well.
So, it was a surprise was that Brock decided suddenly to run for school board. Brock is much better known in the community, better liked and a more skillful politician than the three Santa Monica- Malibu Unified School District Board of Education (School Board) candidates. He would be a shoo-in for the board.
Brock felt he could not win against four incumbents because he was not endorsed by SMRR, the unions or special interests. He reasoned that a seat on SMMUSD Board of Education would be easily winnable. He announced he wouldn’t run for council but would run for school board.
It would make sense for Brock to run for school board. First of all, it’s a much easier race. School Board candidates. But there was a problem. Mayor Tony Vazquez’s wife Maria Leon-Vazquez was running for reelection. Normally, three of seven seats on the Board of Education would be available this year. Incumbents Maria Leon-Vazquez, Ralph Mechur and newcomer Jon Kean were the only candidates to file for the three seats. If Brock were to not seek a seat, and nobody else filed to run, the three candidates will be appointed to the board by default.
However, it was not to be and once again cronyism and fate stood in the way of a progressive, common sense governing body from taking the reins at the SMMUSD.
The horse trading began. My sources tell me the wheeling and dealing between power brokers and political cronies on behalf of Maria Leon-Vazquez was something to behold. In the end, a deal was struck. Brock would not run for Board of Education in return for an appointment to a two-year term on the Arts Commission. Although appointments to City Boards and commissions are not supposed to be politically driven, part of the deal was that Brock would receive support from behind the scenes heavyweight political power players if he decided to run for elected office in 2018.
I guess that Brock could enter the election as a write-in candidate this election and still stay on the arts commission but I have a feeling that would really anger a lot of people. Besides, write-in candidates don’t usually do well in major elections.
With Brock pursuing the arts, we lose the wisdom and common sense he would bring to either City Council or School Board. And, we’re stuck with the same old SMRR cronyism, social engineering, excessive spending and less good government than we need or deserve.
Grim isn’t it?
Bill can be reached at Mr.firstname.lastname@example.org