CITY HALL — Five-term City Council incumbent Bob Holbrook on Monday said he plans to seek re-election to a four-year term, ending speculation he might challenge council colleagues Gleam Davis and Terry O’Day for a two-year seat in November’s election.
Holbrook’s decision came after members of the influential political party Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights on Sunday voted to endorse both Davis and O’Day for the two available two-year terms but left incumbent Pam O’Connor, who had sought a nomination for a four-year seat, off the endorsement list.
The results from SMRR’s convention mean the party won’t endorse a candidate for one of the three four-year terms that will be contested in November.
The party’s steering committee, though, could still vote to support O’Connor for the seat if at least eight out of its 12 voting members agree. Support from the steering committee would likely give O’Connor a boost and make Holbrook’s race more competitive.
On Monday, though, Holbrook said he believes he could win a seat in either the four-year or the two-year contest.
“I know I can win the two-year race but I’m about 98 percent sure on the other one,” he said.
After witnessing SMRR’s convention on Sunday, Holbrook said he believes the party’s clout in local politics is on the wane.
“I think their convention showed that there’s mass disunity and I just don’t think the endorsement is as potent as it used to be,” he said.
For three decades, a SMRR endorsement has been considered the most significant prize for any local campaign. Holbrook, though, said he now believes SMRR’s endorsement is no more important than nods from the police and firefighter unions.
On Monday, other local observers offered different interpretations of the SMRR convention’s results.
Patricia Hoffman, the party’s co-chair, said the failure to produce a full slate of candidates for both the council and school board contests was the result of a big influx of new SMRR members. She said 200 people registered as party members just before the May 3 deadline for convention participation, a sharp increase from prior years.
“I think there were intense constituencies who wanted to block candidates as much as they wanted to support other candidates,” she said.
Challengers, rather than incumbents, received the most votes.
Two of the highest vote getters on Sunday were Ted Winterer, a City Council hopeful, and Laurie Lieberman, who is running for the school board. Neither candidate has won a SMRR endorsement in the past.
Winterer received 202 votes out of 234 ballots cast in the four-year endorsement decision, more than the 154 votes received by second-place finisher and three-term incumbent Kevin McKeown, who also won an endorsement. O’Connor received 117 votes in the first round of voting and 102 out of 199 ballots cast in the second round.
In the school board race, Lieberman received the most votes with 141, more than incumbents Barry Snell (128), Ralph Mechur (110) and Oscar de la Torre (109) on the first ballot. After three rounds of voting, only Lieberman and Snell received enough votes to secure endorsements.
Some SMRR insiders, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the large turnout by new SMRR members was unfortunate because many of the new members were homeowners rather than renters — traditionally the core constituency for the party that was founded to protect tenants’ rights.
Winterer, meanwhile, acknowledged bringing about 40 supporters on Sunday but said any candidate who was successful at the convention had to receive votes from a cross-section of SMRR members.
“I’m thrilled to have the SMRR endorsement and I believe that my support came from all the different constituencies that make up SMRR,” he said. “Of course I’m grateful that they were there to support me as they undoubtedly played a critical role in my endorsement, but I don’t think their numbers were significant enough to have influenced the outcomes of the remainder of the endorsement decisions.”
Diana Gordon, who co-chairs the group Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City, said SMRR actively seeks new members, so it’s unusual that some of the group’s leaders would criticize decisions made by new recruits.
“It’s bizarre for any political group who cares to flourish and survive to complain that new members aren’t as good as old members,” she said.
There’s still some cohesion within the party, Gordon pointed out.
Despite disagreement about which candidates to endorse, SMRR convention participants were united when it came to the question of whether to expand tenants’ rights, endorsing a November ballot initiative that would strengthen eviction protections without a single dissenting vote.