CITYWIDE — The leaders of Santa Monica’s foremost political party, Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), announced this weekend that they would support former City Councilman Tony Vazquez and incumbent Terry O’Day in the November City Council race.

Both men won approval from two-thirds of the 13-member SMRR steering committee, the threshold required to clinch the group’s backing.

Only two spots in a four-seat race had been filled at the SMRR annual convention on July 22, with Planning Commissioner Ted Winterer and Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis snagging the endorsement outright.

That left the steering committee to choose between Vazquez, O’Day and former Lookout columnist Frank Gruber and education advocate Shari Davis to fill out the slate.

It wasn’t easy, said Patricia Hoffman, co-chair of SMRR.

“There were a lot of different points of view on what we should do and how we should handle it,” Hoffman said. “After really struggling with it, the group decided the best thing to do would be to support Tony and Terry at this time.”

The steering committee was swayed by the fact that SMRR had endorsed both O’Day and Vazquez in the past, and the fact that both men had a strong showing at the SMRR annual convention.

Vazquez fell only two votes short of an outright endorsement in the first round of voting, and O’Day trailed him by seven votes.

The weekend decision means that Vazquez and O’Day will join Winterer and Davis on a slate of candidates with SMRR backing.

SMRR will run an independent campaign for those four as well as three candidates for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education, Rent Control Board and Santa Monica College Board.

Unlike the others, Vazquez and O’Day will have to say that they are “supported” by SMRR rather than “endorsed” because they did not win an endorsement outright at the annual convention.

Hoffman characterized it as “a distinction without a difference.”

Either way, the four candidates will appear on mailers and other campaign literature that SMRR will circulate in Santa Monica, an expensive proposition if any of them tried to fund such an effort themselves.

“People in the public not paying as close attention will know these are people who will protect their rights as tenants, work for a cleaner environment and will represent them in a way that is compatible with SMRR values,” Hoffman said.

Vazquez said Monday that he was honored by the choice, and that SMRR support of any kind will be valuable as the campaign moves forward.

“Santa Monica has high voter turn out, and we’ll need a lot of money to reach voters,” Vazquez said. “If you can have someone like SMRR to endorse your candidacy, it [helps] your budget.”

O’Day felt that the committee’s selection validated his last four years of work on the City Council.

“I’m running with the people who helped me get to where I am now,” O’Day said. “Having their support means, in essence, having done a good job in the council role. That’s a nice thing.”

Neither Gruber nor Shari Davis, the remaining two candidates vying for SMRR’s help, count themselves out.

In a statement released Sunday, Gruber said that he was still grateful to snag one of the top four spots at the convention the week before.

“That initial vote meant a great deal to my supporters and me because it means that my campaign based on progressive values has strong support within SMRR,” Gruber said. “I will now campaign vigorously as an independent to win a seat on the council.”

Shari Davis confirmed that her candidacy would go forward as planned.

There are still 12 other candidates that did not get so much as consideration from SMRR, be that because they themselves are not members or did not get their applications in on time.

None of the council candidates, as of Monday, had turned in enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. Candidates have until Aug. 10 to turn in 100 valid signatures of registered voters in Santa Monica to be included on the ballot.

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