CITY HALL — Leaders of the political party Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights on Thursday were keeping quiet about whether the organization would support additional candidates in the City Council and school board races, saying they’d make an announcement this evening.
SMRR members who attended the group’s convention on Sunday couldn’t agree on full slates of candidates in either race, sparking speculation the party’s steering committee may act to support additional candidates despite a lack of consensus among convention attendees.
The steering committee — made up of 12 voting members — could, with a two-thirds vote, throw the party’s support and financial resources behind one additional candidate for City Council and two additional candidates for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education.
While the steering committee’s support isn’t equivalent to an endorsement won at the convention, it comes with many of the same benefits. Candidates that receive the steering committee’s support can’t say they have SMRR’s endorsement, but would likely be included on SMRR campaign literature without being differentiated from the endorsed candidates.
In the City Council race, Pam O’Connor, a four-term incumbent who in the past has received SMRR’s backing but fell short of the 55 percent super majority required to win an endorsement at this year’s convention, is the lone candidate seeking SMRR’s support.
In the contest for the school board, three candidates — incumbents Oscar de la Torre and Ralph Mechur and challenger Nimish Patel — are seeking the group’s support after coming up short in their endorsement bids.
The steering committee met Wednesday but did not report a decision about either race.
“We’re not talking about the meeting,” said Patricia Hoffman, a co-chair of SMRR. “Nothing happened that is reportable.”
Hoffman on Thursday said the steering committee would not meet again during the campaign season — an indication the committee had already voted on whether to support additional candidates but was not making its decision public.
Hoffman said SMRR would make an announcement tonight.
The delay has implications for the City Council race, where candidates must decide whether to run for one of three open four-year terms or for one of two open two-year terms by 5 p.m. today.
SMRR has already endorsed two candidates — Council Members Gleam Davis and Terry O’Day, who were appointed to the body following the deaths of mayors Herb Katz and Ken Genser, respectively — for the two-year terms. The party endorsed just two candidates in the race for three four-year council terms.
To some observers, the relative competitiveness of each race hinges on the steering committee’s decision.
If the committee votes to support O’Connor, giving SMRR, for all intents and purposes, a full slate of candidates in both council contests, some say the two-year race will be more appealing for challengers, since neither endorsed candidate has been elected to the council before.
But if the steering committee votes not to support O’Connor for a four-year term, it’s possible that race could be more enticing to challengers, since SMRR would be backing only two candidates for three seats.
Five-term City Council incumbent Bob Holbrook, a non-SMRR member, pulled papers for both races and this week has been pondering which race to officially enter.
Several observers, who asked not to be named, interpreted the SMRR steering committee’s secrecy about its decision whether or not to support O’Connor as a ploy to damage Holbrook’s election chances, since — it appears — he will have to decide which contest to enter before SMRR discloses the actions taken by its steering committee.