CITY HALL — It took more than a half dozen rounds of voting and a failed attempt to call a special election, but in the end a one-time candidate and political party leader was appointed to serve the next two years of late Councilmember Herb Katz’ term.
Gleam Davis, a 52-year-old attorney for AT&T who finished fifth place in the 2006 council race, was selected on Tuesday to take the seventh seat on the dais, left vacant last month when a recently re-elected Katz died after a long battle with cancer. Davis was sworn in shortly after her appointment and joined her councilmembers through the rest of the evening.
She brings the gender diversity that some had expressed interest in bringing to the council, joining its only other female member, Mayor Pro Tem Pam O’Connor, who remained committed with her vote for Davis throughout the proceedings.
“I really look forward to working with the other council members on the issues the council faces in the coming months, particularly the Land Use and Circulation Element,” Davis said.
The 23-year-resident, who up until the appointment served on the Planning Commission, is also the co-chair of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights, the dominating political party that holds a 4-2 majority on the council.
While the final recorded vote showed all SMRR-aligned members — Mayor Ken Genser, O’Connor, and Councilmembers Kevin McKeown and Richard Bloom — deciding in favor of Davis, it didn’t start out that way.
Only three of the total 27 candidates who put their name in for consideration remained in contention throughout the evening, including Davis, her co-Chair Patricia Hoffman, and Ted Winterer, who was the first runner-up in the 2008 election.
Each of those candidates received three votes in at least one round with Winterer starting out strong, gaining support from Councilmember Bob Holbrook, Bobby Shriver and McKeown.
But those votes began shifting to Hoffman and Davis as it became apparent that neither of the three other councilmembers would vote for Winterer, an Ocean Park resident.
The rounds of voting continued as several of the councilmembers began shifting their choices around, leaving Hoffman or Davis just one vote shy of appointment at times.
Shriver, who from the beginning called for a special election out of concern that the appointment would be too political, suggested periodically that the voting be suspended and the decision be given to residents. A vote for a special election was ultimately defeated.
“We’re going to keep doing this until we get tired of it?” Shriver, who stuck with Winterer throughout the meeting, said. “It’s OK with me if that’s what we’re doing.”
Davis was appointed following a brief break, receiving votes from Holbrook, Genser, O’Connor and Bloom. Before the votes were finalized, McKeown decided to change his decision to Davis, which prompted Holbrook to switch his to Winterer.
“I wanted to go back to the person I primarily supported and tried for,” Holbrook said on Wednesday. “If Kevin hadn’t changed his vote, I would not have changed mine because I don’t think it’s fair to appoint someone and then unappoint them.”
The crowded field of candidates included a mix of political newcomers and familiar faces from previous elections, including Terry O’Day, who chairs the Planning Commission and ran in 2006, and Susan Hartley, an attorney who came in sixth place in 2008.
Winterer continued to receive the support of a group of residents who urged the council to appoint based on the results of the November election.
“With the election so recent it only seems fair to Santa Monicans to choose the next person in line from that vote,” Nina Fresco, who lives in Ocean Park, said.
Davis said she chose not to run in the 2008 election because she had just been appointed to the Planning Commission and did not want to go up against four strong incumbents after learning two years before how difficult it is to unseat them.
She plans to run in 2010 to finish the last two years of Katz’ term.
Her goals include working on the Land Use and Circulation Element, the 20-year-plan for City Hall, and looking for opportunities to serve local youth.
“I know this is a difficult process for both the council and community,” she said after taking her seat on the dais. “I will try to live up to the faith that you have shown in me.”