CLARA HARTER & Emily Sawicki / SMDP Staff Writers
With nine months until voting day 2022, Santa Monica is gearing up for an unusual election season with its redistricted County Supervisor, State Assembly, State Senate and House of Representatives seats all up for election.
At the local level a lot is also up in the air, including the question of whether Santa Monica will have at-large or district-based elections as a California Voting Rights Act lawsuit is still awaiting final judgment in the California Supreme Court.
The case was filed by Maria Loya, wife of current City Councilman Oscar de la Torre, and the Pico Neighborhood Association in 2016 and seeks to move the City to a district-based election system on the basis that the current at-large system discriminates against Latino candidates.
However, it is not clear yet how the court will rule, when changes might be made or what impact it would have on the 2022 election.
If the CVRA case is ruled in favor of the City, at-large elections will continue as normal and the seats of Councilmembers Sue Himmelrich, Kristin McCowan and Lana Negrete will be up for election in November. Additionally, there are four SMMUSD School Board seats, four College Board seats and three Rent Control Board seats up for election.
Santa Monica Democratic Club President Jon Katz said he thought the 2022 City Council election would serve as a referendum on the City Council’s decisions made in the past year or year-and-a-half since a batch of new members came to city leadership positions.
“Some of the big issues that I’ve been paying attention to in Santa Monica has been response to the police oversight commission and how that’s being received,” Katz elaborated. “Then, some of the ordinances that have been proposed last year pertaining to freedom of speech and the right to protest in Santa Monica. And then there have been some decisions relating to hotels, hotel development. And in general, obviously, there’s the evergreen issue of scope of development in the city.”
At the County level, current State Assemblymember Richard Bloom is running for Supervisor in L.A. County’s Third District, as current Supervisor Sheila Kuehl is not running for reelection. Bloom is a Santa Monica resident who served on City Council for 13 years and has been Assemblymember for California’s 50th District for the last nine years.
Several other notable politicians have also tossed their hats in the ring for Kuehl’s seat, including State Senator Henry Stern of Calabasas, West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath and L.A. City Controller Ron Galperin.
While the Third District retained most of its territory during redistricting, it did absorb several conservative neighborhoods in the north San Fernando Valley like Chatsworth, Porter Ranch and Granada Hills, which will shift the voting dynamics in this traditionally very liberal district.
Santa Monica’s State Assembly District changed dramatically. Instead of encompassing all the beach communities from Santa Monica to the Ventura border, it now consists of just 2.75 miles of coastline and stretches inland to Griffith Park.
This change removes Santa Monica from the 50th Assembly District and places it in the newly drawn 51st Assembly District.
Speaking to the Daily Press in December, Bloom — who is giving up his assembly seat to run for county office — called the new 51st Assembly District lines a “net loss” for Santa Monica.
Katz said he agreed with Bloom’s take on Santa Monica’s new assembly district and added that the communities on Hollywood and West Hollywood would have a large influence on who is selected as the new assemblymember representing District 41.
“It just means that there’s other types of communities that are part of that [district] that are going to be speaking that maybe have different viewpoints on these issues, and that could lead to a loss of influence,” Katz said. “Santa Monica is always going to be influential in any district it’s in because of the percentage of people that come out to vote from Santa Monica. But I do think that when there’s other large communities like West Hollywood and Hollywood, the Fairfax area, all of those areas are going to tend to also be very important for any assemblymember’s backing.”
Rick Chavez Zbur, the executive director of Equality California, a statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, announced his candidacy for state assembly, pivoting from the District 50 to District 51 races when lines were redrawn.
Chavez Zbur, a progressive Democrat, has already lined up an impressive slate of endorsements including State Senators Ben Allen and Henry Stern, plus CA Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and multiple union chapters and other elected officials from around the state.
It was not immediately clear if other candidates had also thrown their hats into the ring for the 51st Assembly District.
For the State Senate, Santa Monica is moving into the newly drawn Senate District 24, where current Senator and Santa Monica native Allen is running for reelection. No challengers have announced plans to attempt to unseat the incumbent who is running for his third term.
At the federal level, Santa Monica is in the new Congressional District 36 where current member of the House of Representatives Ted Lieu is up for reelection. Lieu, who was first elected to the House in 2014, sits on the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees. So far, no other candidates have announced campaigns in the race for the 36th District.
On Dec. 27, the state’s independent redistricting commission provided certified maps to the California Secretary of State’s office. By Jan. 3, candidates for various offices with June 7, 2022, primaries were cleared to begin filing nomination signatures. Feb. 10 marks the final day maps can be challenged in court, followed by the candidate filing period, from Feb. 14 through March 11.
In California, the deadline to register to vote for any election is 15 days before Election Day, making the registration deadline for the general election Oct. 24, 2022. In order to cast a ballot in the June 7 primary, voters must postmark or electronically submit registration no later than May 23, 2022.
In 2021, California codified its pandemic-era rule of universal Vote By Mail, meaning every registered California voter will receive a mail-in ballot prior to the June and November elections. Ballot drop boxes and vote centers, which rolled out to replace precincts during the 2020 election, will continue to be instituted with a goal of increasing ease of voting.
The State also provides a method for same-day voter registration, also known as conditional voter registration, for those who miss the normal registration deadline. Those votes will be counted after the county elections office verifies their registration following the election.
More information on registering to vote can be found at sos.ca.gov/elections/voter-registration.