CITYWIDE — The Steering Committee of the city’s largest political party announced its support of two City Council candidates over the weekend but support of a third may be coming.
Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) members failed to reach consensus and endorse any council candidates at its convention earlier this month so the question was posed to the party’s 11-member board.
Four of those members recused themselves because of their involvement with this year’s campaign but the remaining seven agreed to support Councilmember Kevin McKeown and Planning Commission Chair Jennifer Kennedy.
Roger Thornton, a Steering Committee member who, according to campaign disclosure statements, is serving as the treasurer of both Kennedy’s and Planning Commissioner Sue Himmelrich’s campaigns, did not recuse himself.
Co-Chair Patricia Hoffman is open to the idea of supporting a third candidate. It’s something SMRR might do down the line if the leadership believes it to be politically advantageous, she said.
“There is a possibility that we could add one more person and when you do it by Steering Committee, the Steering Committee gets to choose whomever we want,” Hoffman said. “That’s totally flexible. It could happen. It might not happen. It is a situation that we are playing by ear.”
SMRR does not refer to the Steering Committee’s support as an endorsement but the candidates will receive SMRR’s highly sought-after financial backing. SMRR-backed candidates almost always win election.
McKeown led both rounds of membership voting at the convention but Kennedy placed fifth, behind former Planning Commissioner Frank Gruber, and current Planning Commissioners Richard McKinnon and Sue Himmelrich.
“I hear rumblings that people are unhappy that we selected Jennifer since she didn’t have as many votes at the convention but, from the people who do the work in SMRR, she had 100 percent confidence,” Hoffman said. “It was such an easy choice.”
Prior to this election season, Kennedy worked as SMRR’s coordinator, the organization’s only paid position. She has volunteered with SMRR for many years.
“I am grateful to have the support of SMRR because of how dedicated the organization is to renters, and the community as a whole, and how they uphold their mission,” Kennedy told the Daily Press in an e-mail. “I have put forth the same dedication to our community and will continue to do so.”
Both Kennedy and McKeown support Himmelrich to fill the third council seat that is up for grabs.
“With Jennifer Kennedy and me, the SMRR steering committee has supported two rock-solid slow growth candidates, who’ve proven our commitment to protecting renters and creating truly affordable housing,” McKeown said in an e-mail, “not just a few cheap units slapped onto bad projects.”
Gruber alluded to the third council seat in an e-mail to the Daily Press.
“I’m disappointed that the committee didn’t support me, when I received such strong support from the membership at the convention, where I came in a close second to the winning candidate,” he said. “But the committee left an open slot on the SMRR slate, and I will continue to run on the progressive values of SMRR to represent all Santa Monica on the City Council.”
Calls and e-mails to Himmelrich and McKinnon we’re not returned by press time.
Mayor Pam O’Connor, who was backed by the Steering Committee before her last election, did not get the nod this time around. SMRR opposed the controversial Hines development project, which O’Connor voted in favor of earlier this year.
Hoffman, Sonya Sultan, Judy Abdo, Bruria Finkel, Roger Thornton, Michael Tarbet, and Linda Sullivan are the remaining unrecused SMRR Steering Committee members.
Co-Chair Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswien is running for the Board of Education. Maria Loya is running for the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees. She did not receive an endorsement from SMRR membership or support from the Steering Committee. Genise Schnitman is married to McKeown. Denny Zane is serving as Himmelrich’s campaign manager.

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