CITY HALL — Incumbent Kevin McKeown and Planning Commissioner Sue Himmelrich pulled off wide-margin victories in Santa Monica’s City Council race Tuesday night.
Mayor Pam O’Connor leads Recreation and Parks Commissioner Phil Brock by nearly 600 votes as of the semi-official results from the Los Angeles County Registrar.
If results hold, O’Connor will own the third contested council seat.
There is an outside chance that Brock could make up ground once vote-by-mail and provisional ballots are counted. The Los Angeles County Registrar estimates there are 235,000 ballots left to be checked countywide but its not yet clear how many of those were cast in Santa Monica. The Daily Press should know how many were cast in Santa Monica by the end of the week. The county has 28 days to certify the results.
Himmelrich will join slow-growth allies McKeown, Ted Winterer, and Tony Vazquez on council.
Early vote totals point to a low voter turnout.
McKeown tops ballot
Incumbent Kevin McKeown was the closest thing to a sure bet in this year’s council election. He led for the race after each precinct was reported. McKeown, who was elected in 1998, has never been appointed mayor by his colleagues. With three slow-growth allies on council, perhaps this could change.
“Slow-growthers scattered their votes, but still managed to elect two of us committed to stopping overdevelopment, creating a new progressive slow-growth majority on the City Council,” he said. “I would hope this is a new beginning, bending the arc of growth policy toward a sustainable level of development that respects residents. I’m relieved that we’re unlikely to see any condo/hotel towers along our coastline for at least the next two years.”
Several slow-growth candidates, including planning commissioners Richard McKinnon and Jennifer Kennedy, received thousands of votes but failed to crack the top five slots in the race for council.
McKeown pulled in 7,475 votes as of the early results. This number will likely rise as provisional and vote-by-mail ballots are tallied but, as it stands, its the lowest vote total for the top council candidate since at least 1978, which is as far back as election results are readily available on City Hall’s website.
This is likely due in part to the strong overall field but also to low voter turnout.
Himmelrich wins on first try
Lots of Santa Monica political junkies claim that it’s hard to win a council seat without a trial run — a first campaign which the candidate loses but learns from.
Planning Commissioner Sue Himmelrich became the first candidate to win election to council on her first try since Bobby Shriver did it in 2004.
Himmelrich spent $130,000 of her own money on her campaign and won endorsements from all the major local grassroots political organizations.
“I am deeply honored that the residents of Santa Monica stood firm with me on the issues with their votes, and I look forward to standing firm on the issues for the residents with my votes on the City Council,” Himmelrich told the Daily Press in an e-mail.
Himmelrich said she had no expectations going into the night.
“I wasn’t surprised or not surprised,” she said of the results.
Himmelrich, who spent the day at the polls, said she could see that turnout was “dismally low.”
“More than that, I really was upset that we lost the Senate and the House,” she said, referring to losses by Democrats across the country.
She stayed up until 3 a.m. waiting for all the local precincts to report. When the Daily Press spoke with Himmelrich Wednesday afternoon, she was prepping for the Planning Commission meeting Wednesday night, which involved a review of the new proposed Zoning Ordinance.
O’Connor appears to hold onto seat
It looks like Mayor Pam O’Connor, who was attacked by many this campaign, will hold her seat despite losing support from SMRR, which had backed her in the past. As of the semi-official results, which were posted by the Los Angeles County Registrar at 3:20 a.m. after all 55 Santa Monica precincts were reported, O’Connor had received 4,933 votes to Brock’s 4,347.
This isn’t an easy feat. Only outgoing Councilmember Bob Holbrook has been able to consistently win reelection without the support of SMRR in recent years.
“I feel fortunate to serve in a city where a high level of public engagement is the norm, and the public dialogue is robust,” O’Connor told the Daily Press in an e-mail. “We don’t always agree with one another, but I believe we’re all pulling for the same objective ‚Äì a vital, sustainable city.”
O’Connor pledged to devote this term to addressing the need for housing for young adults and young families. She also wants to help foster an environment that welcomes the growing startup and tech industry.
“Most of all, I will work to ensure that all Santa Monicans, young and old, continue to enjoy our high quality of life, exceptional schools and public safety services, and our excellent public transportation infrastructure,” she said.
Brock down by few hundred votes
Recreation and Parks Chair Phil Brock was the first runner-up in Tuesday night’s council race, according to early election results.
When the Daily Press spoke with Brock on Wednesday afternoon, he was not holding out hope that the new numbers would sway in his favor but said he would welcome it if they did.
“If the result changed, I would be thrilled,” he said. “In the interim, I plan on working with the mayor, who was reelected. I plan on working with Councilmember Himmelrich. And, of course, Kevin.”
He extended his congratulations to the three elected council members.
Brock has said that this was not a trial run. He made clear on Wednesday that he would not become a “perpetual candidate.” He did use the common political phrase “never say never,” when talking about whether or not he’d ever run for council again.
A few hours after polls closed on Tuesday, he was celebrating the end of a long campaign at Lare’s Restaurant still hoping to bridge the gap between himself and third-place O’Connor.
At a long table on the second floor of the restaurant, Brock and a dozen or so of his supporters chatted and laughed over the din of election results sounding from the TV in the corner.
Brock sat in the middle of the table refreshing his iPhone for the latest vote counts.
“I feel tired and worn out, but we gave it our all,” he said.
Brock said regardless of the outcome of the election he was proud of his campaign team. Even at his post-election party, Brock was still in campaign mode, touting his credentials.