CITY HALL — Tuesday’s election was a test for two local political groups and yielded mixed results for both.

Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) is the city’s largest political party. It has a strong track record of getting its candidates elected so every year is a test of its strength.

Residocracy came onto the political scene earlier this year, taking the lead on a successful referendum of the controversial Hines development agreement. The next question: How well would the group’s anti-development message fare at the polls?

Both groups backed incumbent Kevin McKeown and Planning Commissioner Sue Himmelrich and those candidates were elected by a wide margin. But none of the local political groups could get together on their third candidate.

SMRR supported Planning Commissioner Jennifer Kennedy, who placed sixth after the early election results.

SMRR candidates almost always go on to win election. In 2010, now-City Councilmember Ted Winterer had the endorsement but missed election by less than 100 votes. In 2006, now-City Councilmember Gleam Davis had SMRR’s backing but placed fifth in a race for three slots. Since 2006, these are SMRR’s only council defeats and in both cases the candidates went on to win election.

SMRR co-Chair Patricia Hoffman said that Kennedy’s showing was based in part on SMRR’s wounded ground game. Unite Here! Local 11, a hospitality workers union, traditionally turns out tons of volunteers who go door-to-door on behalf of SMRR candidates. This year, they backed McKeown and former Planning Commissioner Frank Gruber. Gruber placed fifth in the election, one seat ahead of Kennedy.

“This year it was hard on all of us that the hotel workers, Unite Here, and we chose to have different candidates,” Hoffman said. “We weren’t able to get our message out as far as we would have liked to. With Jenn (Kennedy) running for office she couldn’t communicate with us and be a part of our decision making team and she’d always been really good on the ground campaign. Our ground campaign was much less than it usually is.”

Kennedy was backed following a vote from seven members of SMRR’s Steering Committee. Gruber received the second-highest vote total at SMRR’s membership convention — thanks in large part to votes from Unite Here members — but none of the candidates had enough votes to score endorsements so the question was posed to the Steering Committee.

“I wish that we had done a better job of getting Jennifer’s name out there in front of the public because I still think that she’s a really exceptional person that would make a truly fine council member,” Hoffman said. “I’m sad about her not getting it just because I think she’d be so good for our city.”

Hoffman said she wouldn’t have done anything different during the candidate selection process and that she’d consider Kennedy one of her top choices in the next election.

The Daily Press reached out to Kennedy to see if she’s considering a future run but did not hear back by press time.

Another big loss for SMRR was the failure of Measure H, which would have raised taxes on the sale of million dollar homes. A companion measure, HH, which passed, would have advised City Hall to spend that new money on affordable housing.

“I was gratified that the people of Santa Monica still registered their support for affordable housing with Measure HH,” Hoffman said. “It would have been better if they had done so with their pocketbooks as well as their vote on H.”

Hoffman said that measure was hard to explain and therefore hard campaign for. She said that it, like many issues on the ballot, was conflated with concerns about over-development.

This was an area where SMRR and Residocracy differed. Residocracy’s Advisory Board opposed Measure H.

“I think that Measure H was really about development and I think that development has been a main issue in this election,” said Residocracy founder Armen Melkonians. “I think that the word got out to residents and the residents voted accordingly. I’m very happy that H did not pass in this election. It was also a property tax disguised as a measure.”

Melkonians was also very happy with the results of the election.

Residocracy strongly endorsed Recreation and Parks Chair Phil Brock, who sits in fourth place after the initial election results.

“We picked up Sue Himmelrich as a pro-resident candidate,” Melkonians said. “Phil came very close to unseating the mayor in a successful city, which is very difficult. As a grassroots candidate, I thought he did amazingly well. His voice resonated with residents and our grassroots movement.”

Residocracy was active online and on the ground but spent far less money than the other political groups in the city.

“I think we learned a lot through the election,” Melkonians said. “I think that we need to sit down with our board immediately and go over our lessons that we learned. We have to move that forward more effectively. But even for the first time, I think it was an amazing success for residents. I believe that in the next election cycle we can take a lot of what we’ve learned and move it forward in a more dynamic and effective manner.”

The initial results from Board of Education election are very close, with second through fifth places being separated by just over 500 votes. As it stands, SMRR picked three of the top four finishers, with SMRR-endorsed incumbent Ralph Mechur being the odd man out.

Unendorsed Malibu schools advocate Craig Foster sits in second place.

“I’m going to be on tenterhooks until I find out what the outcome of the school board race is,” Hoffman said.

Outgoing boardmember Nimish Patel, who announced earlier this year he would not seek reelection, is the only member of the current board who didn’t win SMRR’s backing.

dave@www.smdp.com

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