The 11-person steering committee in charge of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Right, the city’s single-most influential political organization, announced the group’s endorsements for City Council Sunday.
A week after the SMRR members made local history by failing, for the first time in the organization’s 40-year history, to endorse even one City Council candidate, the organization’s steering committee announced that they would support incumbent Kevin McKeown and Planning Commissioner Jennifer Kennedy for two of three seats on the City Council.
While McKeown got the highest number of votes in two rounds of voting (201 out of 452 in round one and 175 out of 356 in round two) at the SMRR convention on August 3, he fell short of the 55 percent threshold required to secure an endorsement.
Kennedy, however, came in fifth place in both rounds of voting (113 votes in round one and 110 votes in round two), which means the steering committee snubbed the second, third, and fourth place vote-getters at the convention when it announced its support on August 10.
That the steering committee would choose Kennedy came as a surprise to many since, in the past, the steering committee has usually taken into account the votes each candidate gets from the floor in determining who they will support.
Former Planning Commissioner and long-time political observer Frank Gruber came in second place in both rounds of voting, with 188 votes in round one and 166 votes in round two.
A staunch proponent of affordable housing, workers’ rights, smart growth, and shared streets, Gruber enjoyed support from a range of coalitions within SMRR’s membership, including the local hospitality workers’ union, which also supported McKeown.
Gruber was trailed by Planning Commissioner Richard McKinnon, a former Parks and Recreation Commissioner who has also been an advocate for shared streets and who had a hand in creating Santa Monica’s perennial Bike It! Walk It! events.
Going into the August 3 convention, McKinnon had the official backing of Santa Monica’s local no-growth organization, Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City, which turned out numbers to support him, McKeown and the fourth place vote-getter, Planning Commissioner Sue Himmelrich.
After the steering committee’s August 10 announcement, SMRR Co-Chair Patricia Hoffman told The Lookout, “We [the steering committee] were unanimous on the two candidates and were divided on the third. It doesn’t mean we won’t make a decision in the future.”
Some believe that the impasse over whether or not to choose a third candidate was caused by internal deal-making.
Himmelrich’s campaign is run by SMRR co-founder Denny Zane and several people with close knowledge of the decision told Next that he has been heavily lobbying the steering committee to endorse her. Though Zane is a member of the steering committee, he has recused himself from the decision due to his involvement in Himmelrich’s campaign.
But other observers have a different interpretation of the steering committee’s decision.
According to The Lookout, “Political insiders say that the move was political pushback from SMRR’s old guard, taking a swipe at outside factions who attended the convention to try to influence the organization’s endorsement.”