Endorsements matter in City Council raceIn Santa Monica today three Greens hold elected office, and at 2%, the city has the highest Green registration south of Ojai in Southern California.
By Green Focus staff
The 2002 elections brought continued success, with the re-election of Green incumbent Mayor Pro-Tem Kevin McKeown and the groundbreaking first-time campaign of Josefina Aranda.
First elected in 1998, in 2002 McKeown finished a strong second in a field of nine candidates for three seats. He received support and enthusiastic endorsements from labor, tenants, environmentalists, teachers, neighborhood activists and even the local police and fire unions.
The LA Weekly, the Santa Monica Daily Press, and The Santa Monica Mirror also endorsed McKeown, the Mirror calling him a council member who really does enjoy public service, and whose passion for making Santa Monica better is evident.
Josefina Aranda, daughter of a bus driver and janitor, sought to become the citys first City Councilmember elected from the Pico Neighborhood, the citys most ethnically diverse and low income neighborhood. Newly credentialed from Columbia University with a Masters degree in Public Education, the 30-year-old Aranda also ran a strong campaign. She was endorsed by the Sierra Club, the National Womens Political Caucus and Southern California Americans for Democratic Action, as well as the Mirror, which by endorsing Aranda and McKeown, endorsed two Greens for the three Council seats:
But without two specific, critical tenant and labor endorsements, Aranda was not able to win election. These non-endorsementswhich went instead to a Democrat who ultimately lost, finishing fourthwere among the most controversial in Santa Monica in 2002.
In four previous consecutive elections, the coalition of Santa Monicans for Renters Rights and the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union Local 814 had easily agreed upon a common slate of candidates, slates which included Greens McKeown (1998, 2002) and Mike Feinstein (1996, 2000).
But the presence of Aranda in 2002 complicated the issue. With two Greens in the race, some key Democrats were decidedly skittish about too many Greens in the Council, while some key living wage advocates supported local Democrat Abby Arnold over Aranda. This set up a competition between Aranda and Arnold, as McKeown and incumbent Democrat Pam OConnor were considered certain to receive endorsements for the other two at-large seats. At the deciding convention. Aranda was out-gunned by Arnold supporters, who stacked the convention and cast almost fifty bullet votes, almost 40% of Arnolds entire total.
This non-endorsement of Aranda was considered by many Greens (and others) to be a colossal lost opportunity by local tenants and labor. The bad feelings left over from the convention colored the rest of the campaign and left the progressive community divided.
In its endorsement, the Mirror said, Josefina Santiago Aranda provides a fresh perspective in the political arena, and its important to maintain female representation on the council. The Pico neighborhood, where Aranda lives, has never had representation. It seems scarcely coincidental that the neighborhood doesnt have council representation and is plagued with gang violence and drug activity. A member of the Green Party, Aranda is about as grassroots as they come. She has a perspective that represents diversity that is not on the council now.
On Election Day, Greens stood waving McKeown and Aranda campaign signs at major Santa Monica intersections. Despite dogged determination and unceasing effort, however, Josefina Aranda did not finish in the top three for three seats on election day. Neither, however, did the Democrat chosen by labor instead of Aranda. McKeown was only 196 votes from being top vote-getter in the field of nine, over 2000 votes ahead of the third-place finisher, also an incumbent.
McKeowns hybrid car
After the election, Aranda was appointed unanimously to Santa Monicas Pier governance board. A Democrat denied McKeown the Mayors seat many had thought he would take, but he was reelected Mayor pro tem, and the Green on Santa Monicas Rent Control Board, Jeff Sklar, was elected vice-chair.
Besides McKeown, Sklar and Feinstein, and Aranda on the Pier board, there are now almost ten other Greens on various Santa Monica Boards and Commissions. In 2004, there will be four seats open on the City Council, not just three, and Santa Monica Greens will be ready.
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