DOWNTOWN — As negative television ads targeting candidates for statewide and national offices blare non-stop during the final days before the election, local races in Santa Monica seem comparatively civil.
Still, this laid-back beach town is not immune to election year bad vibes.
Take, for example, the low-growth group the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City, which is backing three City Council candidates: Kevin McKeown, Ted Winterer and Susan Hartley. In recent days, SMCLC has been distributing fliers urging voters to spurn Pam O’Connor and Terry O’Day, two sitting council members who are seeking new terms.
It’s latest ad is headlined, “Meet Terry O’Day, a big developers best friend” and includes the ominous sounding warning, “He’s never opposed a big development in the past, why would he start now?”
The group, which in 2008 strongly supported Measure T, the failed initiative that would have placed a strict limit on development, has a particular vendetta against O’Day, who co-chaired the campaign to defeat the proposal.
“I don’t believe the voters in Santa Monica go for negative campaigns,” O’Day said on Friday. “Time and time again we’ve seen them turn away from it. It’s too bad that people in town feel that they need to resort to that.”
Representatives from SMCLC could not be reached by deadline Friday.
In another notable instance of negative campaigning, local political powerhouse group Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights, usually content to stay above the fray and simply back its own slate of candidates, has sent out a campaign mailer that tells voters: “Don’t be fooled! Vote no on Kronovet. Republican landlord Robert Kronovet is no friend of tenants and rent control.”
SMRR co-chair Patricia Hoffman said the group thinks carefully about putting out negative campaign ads and has only opposed a handful of candidates in its 30 years. Kronovet’s campaign, she said, presented a special circumstance for SMRR.
“Because he’s running as a Rent Control Board Commissioner, rather than as a real estate broker, we wanted to make sure that our constituency knew that he was not a pro-tenant candidate,” she said.
Kronovet won his Rent Control Board seat 2008, making him the first non-SMRR supported commissioner in the board’s history. He is opposed to Measure RR, which would bolster eviction protections for renters, and regularly criticizes Santa Monica’s rent control law and its affordable housing construction policy.
Defending the anti-Kronovet ad, Hoffman said SMRR takes care to make sure its negative campaign messages aren’t personal attacks.
“On the occasions that we’ve done [negative ads], we have always made factual statements and then encouraged our constituents to not vote for that person based on the facts,” she said.
Regardless of intention, Kronovet, reached on Friday, seemed to be taking it personally.
“It’s ugly, first of all,” he said of the ad. “But I know my opponents. My opponents are ugly when it comes to dehumanizing people.”
He was also quick to strike back.
Asked if he thought SMRR’s attack would hurt him in the election, he replied: “Are you kidding me? It’s not going to hurt at all because this kind of nonsense makes them look like the fools they are.”