MALIBU CITY HALL — Torie Osborn trounced her fellow Democratic candidates in the 50th Assembly District to take the Malibu Democratic Club’s endorsement at the first debate between the three contenders in 2012.

Osborn, a community organizer and former executive director of the Liberty Hill Foundation, scooped up 41 votes to win the endorsement. Assemblywoman Betsy Butler picked up five, and Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom walked away with zero.

Thirteen members of the club voted not to endorse anyone.

Arlene Hopkins, a former Santa Monica Planning Commissioner, said Osborn, also a Santa Monica resident, was a true activist with experience in organizing and grassroots movements.

“Torie has the best understanding of the issues here,” Hopkins said after the debate.

The forum pitted Osborn, Bloom and Butler against one another over a series of questions about local, regional and state issues. Jean Goodman, the president and treasurer of the Malibu Democratic Club, moderated the discussion.

Both Bloom and Butler tried to sell the assembled Democrats on their previous experience as elected officials.

Bloom emphasized his “deep roots” in the Westside, and pointed to his credentials as a 13-year member of the Santa Monica City Council, member of the California Coastal Commission and of the Westside Council of Governments as well as his work as the chair of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission.

“I will help restore public confidence in the legislature,” he promised.

Butler currently represents the 53rd assembly district, which includes Torrance and several beach communities, and has a diverse legislative record which includes a ban on dangerous chemicals in baby bottles and an increase in fines against those who commit crimes against elders.

She announced her decision to run for the 50th Assembly District after the Citizens Redistricting Commission carved up the 53rd in summer 2011 and spread it out between three districts — the 62nd, 66th and the 50th.

“Malibu’s a great city,” she said, noting that the area had much in common with the beach cities of Marina del Rey and Venice which she also represents in terms of water quality and other environmental issues.

Osborn has never run for political office before, and made that her strength.

“We need leadership in Sacramento, an organizer who can form a coalition,” she said. “People who elect me get more than one vote, because I know how to organize.”

Malibu Democrats responded to her policies as well as her energy. She came out firmly against nuclear power, calling it expensive and unsafe, instead pushing for greater investment in developing a green economy to meet California’s “dangerous energy needs.”

She also came out against the death penalty, as well as a controversial plan to dredge and resculpt the Malibu Lagoon, which was given the green light by a State Supreme Court Judge in November.

“I’ll be standing next to Ted Vaill when the bulldozers come,” she vowed, referring to a Malibu resident and lawyer who opposes the plan.

The announcement won her cheers from many members of the audience, some of whom were wearing shirts supporting the Malibu Lagoon.

Bloom, who approved the plan while on the Coastal Commission, was the only candidate who came out for the plan.

“The lagoon needs help,” he said, saying that an extensive public process had been completed and “we achieved the right result.”

The answer was met with loud boos.

Candidates were also asked to comment generally on Pacific Coast Highway, which drew responses about safety issues, the Malibu Pier and the septic ban.

Candidates will hold two more forums in the area, the next in Pacific Palisades on Jan.15, and then in Santa Monica on Jan. 17 at the Santa Monica Main Library.

The endorsements help determine which candidate, if any, the California Democratic Party will endorse in the race.

There is one Republican running for the seat, Brad Torgan of West Hollywood.

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