JAMS — It was a bad year for incumbents at Sunday’s Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights convention, with one sitting City Council member and two incumbent school board members failing to win endorsements from the influential political party.
During a four-hour meeting at John Adams Middle School, party members couldn’t agree on a full slate for either the council or the school board, failing to endorse candidates for one open council seat and two open board of education slots.
In an upset, City Council challenger Ted Winterer won an endorsement while four-term incumbent Pam O’Connor, who failed to receive the required 55 percent super majority in either of the first two voting rounds, fell just short the second time around with 102 out of 199 votes cast, or 51.2 percent.
The 234 registered SMRR members who cast ballots at the convention decided against holding a third voting round to decide O’Connor’s nomination.
SMRR members voted to endorse Winterer and three-term incumbent Kevin McKeown for four-year seats on the City Council. Members also endorsed Gleam Davis and Terry O’Day for two open two-year council seats.
After three voting rounds to decide endorsements for four open Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board of education seats, only Barry Snell, the board’s current president, and challenger Laurie Lieberman received enough votes to win endorsements.
Incumbents Oscar de la Torre and Ralph Mechur, who were both endorsed by SMRR in previous election bids, were left out on Sunday, as was newcomer Nimish Patel.
“There wasn’t a spirit of wanting to support the SMRR platform,” SMRR co-chair Patricia Hoffman said after the convention. “I don’t remember a convention where as many people were here to oppose candidates.”
After missing out on an endorsement, de la Torre, a two-term incumbent, said turnout at the convention appeared to be different from most years.
“When they asked the question, ‘How many people here are renters?’ less than 50 percent of the people put their hands up,” he said. “I’ve never seen that happen in a SMRR convention.”
He said he doesn’t believe the snub will hurt his chances in November’s election.
“I’m still running. It just makes me want to work that much more,” he said.
For candidates who sought a SMRR endorsement but fell short, there’s still a chance they could get a boost from the SMRR steering committee.
The committee can’t hand out official SMRR endorsements but will still have the option of lending the party’s support and resources to some un-endorsed seekers.
When no candidate is endorsed for an available seat, the steering committee can decide to support a candidate for the opening with a two-thirds vote.
There are 12 voting members on the SMRR steering committee, Hoffman said.
While candidates who receive “support” from the SMRR steering committee are barred from saying they’ve been endorsed by SMRR, their names appear on the party’s campaign literature in the same way that the names of officially endorsed candidates do.
Hoffman said the steering committee will meet within the next two weeks to decide whether to support additional candidates for the City Council or school board.
“I think we have more to do. I don’t think we’re done,” she said.
After the convention, O’Connor said she plans to continue to seek SMRR’s support.
“The steering committee has the possibility of supporting me and I’m very hopeful they will support me,” she said.
In other races, SMRR members easily endorsed those seeking the group’s support with single voting rounds.
The party’s members endorsed four candidates for the Rent Control Board: Todd Flora, Marilyn Korade-Wilson and William Winslow for four-year terms and Chris Braun for a two-year term.
For the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees, members supported the four candidates seeking endorsements: incumbents Louise Jaffe, David Finkel, Nancy Greenstein and Andrew Walzer.
SMRR members also overwhelmingly voted to support a November ballot measure that would strengthen eviction protections for tenants and threw the group’s support behind a half percent transaction and use tax that would raise an estimated $12 million per year for City Hall by increasing the sales tax on most purchases made in Santa Monica to 10.25 percent.
Members also endorsed an advisory measure that will ask voters whether 50 percent of the money raised from the tax should be transferred to the public school district.