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It was the opportunity of a lifetime for Oscar de la Torre.

The board co-chair of the Pico Neighborhood Association was given the chance to welcome Bernie Sanders at the longtime senator’s rally last month at Santa Monica High School, de la Torre’s alma mater.

“To be on the same football field where I practiced as a 10th-grader and to be introducing a presidential candidate like Bernie Sanders was inspiring in my political life,” he said. “It was an inspiring event.”

It was fitting, too, considering how de la Torre and other Pico Neighborhood residents voted in the state’s Democratic primary June 7. While most of Santa Monica’s 53 precincts favored Hillary Clinton, the party’s presumptive nominee, Sanders tapped into a groundswell of support in the stretch of the city flanking the Interstate 10 freeway.

More than 1.4 million ballots were cast across the county, according to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder and County Clerk’s office. An additional 500,000-plus provisional and mail-in ballots were still being counted as of last week.

More than 22,000 of Santa Monica’s 65,277 registered voters cast ballots in the election, the 33.7-percent local turnout slightly topping that of the county (roughly 30 percent).

Preliminary tallies show that Clinton received 10,371 votes in Santa Monica, soundly defeating Sanders (7,802). She won all but one of Santa Monica’s precincts north of Santa Monica Boulevard and the lion’s share of precincts south of Pico Boulevard.

But the band of the coastal city between Pico and Olympic boulevards was apparently feeling the Bern, likely drawn to the candidate’s focus on income inequality and messages on everything from incarceration and higher education to climate change and civil rights.

“The Pico Neighborhood has historically been segregated and marginalized,” de la Torre said. “Bernie Sanders spoke about social justice, economic justice, environmental justice and racial justice. Those things, along with fair representation in our government, are issues that resonate with Pico Neighborhood residents.”

The neighborhood’s showing in the primary underscored its identity as a distinct area with needs and interests that are often different from those of other parts of Santa Monica. It’s the reason de la Torre is backing a lawsuit that seeks district-based City Council elections.

“The results show that the Pico Neighborhood wants representatives that can directly relate to our reality,” he said.

Support for Sanders was also strong within the Santa Monica Democratic Club. A straw poll of active members revealed an approximately 3-to-1 preference of Sanders over Clinton, according to club co-president Jay Johnson. The club did not endorse a candidate in the primary.

Sanders sounded defiant on election night following Clinton’s decisive victory in California, telling supporters in Santa Monica that he planned to keep his campaign alive.

But with Clinton’s grip tightened on the Democratic nomination, Sanders voters in the Pico Neighborhood and beyond will likely have to decide between three options in November: backing Clinton, voting for another party’s candidate or sitting out the election.

Johnson said the situation reminded him of 1968, when a fractured Democratic party that included many Eugene McCarthy supporters didn’t rally behind eventual nominee Hubert Humphrey.

“The price we paid for not wholeheartedly supporting Humphrey was eight years of Nixon,” he said.

Added de la Torre: “If the Democratic Party does a better job of embracing the issues that Bernie Sanders spoke on, the Democrats can count on Pico Neighborhood residents voting for the nominee.”

The neighborhood leader said it’s possible that some residents who voted for Sanders in the primary will back the Green Party’s candidate in November. But one thing, he said, was certain.

“They will not vote for Trump,” he said.

jeff@www.smdp.com