The Daily Press has released its Vote Local 2020 podcast series featuring interviews with 24 candidates for City Council, Rent Control, School Board, and College Board. The interviews are conducted by Matt Hall, SMDP Editor in Chief, and provide a deep dive into each candidate’s platform.

“These interviews combine Matt Hall’s strong understanding of the issues facing Santa Monica with his knowledge of how these institutions interrelate to give listeners a smart, insightful and educated lens into this year’s candidates,” said Todd James, SMDP Partner.

The Vote Local 2020 podcasts have replaced the Daily Press’s traditional Squirm Night debate forums so readers can get up close and personal with local candidates while keeping a COVID safe distance. Episodes can be found at or on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify by searching “Inside the Daily Press”.

Each interview runs between 45 minutes and an hour and discusses the most pressing issues for each elected body as well as the issues that candidates highlighted as their top priorities. All candidates were contacted to participate in the series and those that responded in time received an interview.

“In this unique year, we set the intention to inform the electorate in a way that was free of spin, soundbites and one liners. These podcasts are the only way to get meaningful time today with the candidates that will be representing us tomorrow,” said Ross Furukawa, SMDP Publisher.

The City Council episodes feature interviews with incumbents Ana Jara, Gleam Davis, Ted Winterer and Terry O’Day as well as challengers Tom Ciszek, Oscar de la Torre, Mario Fonda-Bonardi, Todd Mentch, Chip Martin, Christine Parra and Phil Brock. There are 21 candidates on the ballot for four City Council seats.

Four of the challengers—de la Torre, Fonda-Bonardi, Parra, and Brock—are running on a coordinated “Change” slate and discuss their group platform which includes increased transparency, halting overdevelopment, reducing crime and tackling homelessness.

“Our beautiful city is in crisis,” said Christine Parra on crime in Santa Monica.

Other issues discussed in City Council interviews include the May 31st looting, City spending, sustainability initiatives, COVID-19 response, the local tech industry, affordable housing and oncoming evictions.

“We need to have a bail out program for people here that are suffering by no fault of their own,” said Ted Winterer while discussing economic recovery.

The School Board episodes feature interviews with incumbents Maria Leon-Vazquez and Jon Kean in addition to challengers Jason Feldman, Esther Hickman, Steven Johnson, Keith Coleman, and Jen Smith. There are eight candidates running for three seats and of these candidates Feldman, Hickman, and Johnson are running on a coordinated “New Leadership” slate.

“This deficit spending has been going on for years and years. The right questions are not being asked,” said Johnson on the District’s budget. His slate is running on a platform of reining in spending, increasing Board transparency, and prioritizing student and teacher needs. Other subjects covered in School Board interviews include COVID-19 response, District unification, term limits, layoffs, and facility improvements.

The Rent Control Board interviews feature incumbents Anastasia Foster and Caroline Torosis and challengers Aishah Newson and Robert Kronovet, who are competing for two seats. Foster, Torosis, and Newson all discussed their staunch support of rent control regulations and advocating for tenants, while Kronovet seeks to represent the perspective of a property manager and real estate broker.

“They never met a regulation they didn’t like,” said Kronovet while discussing his fellow candidates. Subjects covered in rent control interviews include eviction moratoriums, tenant rights, affordable housing, board bias, and the relationship between rent control and community diversity.

The College Board interviews include incumbents Susan Aminoff and Rob Rader who together discuss the equity gap, financial oversight, COVID-19 response, and expanding online opportunities after a return to the classroom. They are two of four candidates running for three seats.