Results and insight from local votes in the 2020 Election
Santa Monica is a typical Californian city: picturesque sunsets, breezy air, and a reliable crop of Democrats. The city cast a majority of its votes for Joe Biden… but the Presidential Election was far from the only item on the ballot. Santa Monicans voted on two municipal measures, five city council positions, and a smattering of board seats. Some results were exactly as expected. There were also a few surprises…
Worth noting: the city saw mediocre turnout: approximately 45,000 ballots out of the 72,000 registered voters. The following results are updated as of 1:00 PM on November 5th . For up-to-the-minute results as the last votes are counted, check out the LA County Clerk’s website.
U.S. House of Representatives: Ted Lieu
Ted Lieu is a Democratic incumbent who, as expected, won his seat with relative ease. He received 69% of the vote.
California Assembly District 62: Autumn Burke
Democratic incumbent Autumn Burke received an overwhelming 82% of the vote to brush off a challenge from Republican Robert Steele. No surprise here.
Measure AB: PASSED
This measure changes the city’s hiring practices. It’s not a particularly groundbreaking change. The City’s Charter had a strange rule that set very specific requirements for appointing candidates and promoting employees, including “competitive examinations.” The door is now open for more diverse, qualified candidates that don’t have to bend over backwards for outdated hiring practices.
It passed with 61% support.
Measure SM: PASSED
This is a property tax increase on property sales over $5M. The real estate transfer tax is now raised from .3% to .6%.
This is expected to create an additional $3M in revenue for the city during a time when it’s sorely needed. The measure passed with 73% support.
City Council: A Major Shake-Up
Santa Monica City Council has seven members that serve in four year terms. There were five seats open in this election.
One seat was decided by a special election, where recent appointee Kristin McCowan ran unopposed. She won with 100% of the vote and will serve only a two year term. She has an impressive resume that includes work with FEMA and Obama’s White House. We should be excited to have her.
Okay. Here’s where it gets interesting. The remaining four seats are filled by the top four vote-getters in a field of all candidates. All four incumbents ran again… but only one succeeded.
Incumbent Gleam Olivia Davis garnered the second-most votes of all candidates. She received 15,700 votes and will serve another term. She has been on the Council since February 2009.
The top vote-getter was Phil Brock. Brock is a former entertainment businessman who has served on the Recreation & Parks and Arts Commissions. He’s a longtime resident whose engagement with the city is undeniable. He also has a cute video series titled “Brock on the Block” that features local sights. His stated priority is public safety and his website emphasizes “SMART policing, not TOUGH policing.” He supports having more officers patrol the streets in order to “build public trust,” adding crisis counselors for alcohol and mental health-related calls, and punishing drug users harshly. It’ll be interesting to see how his platform evolves as he takes his seat on the Council. Brock received 16,000 votes. He can be followed on Twitter here.
Next up was Christine Parra with 15,000 votes. Parra has worked in emergency preparedness and fire safety as a civil servant in Culver City. She also graduated from Cal State University Northridge with a degree in City Planning. She brings municipal experience that should translate directly to the Council.
The final addition to the Council is Oscar de la Torre, who received 14,400 votes. de la Torre is a longtime member of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) Board of Education and Chair of the Pico Neighborhood Association. One of his priorities is transparency at City Hall, including ending the “cycle of Council members appointing their successors.” He’s off to a solid start.
Who missed out?
Mayor Pro Tempore Terry O’Day narrowly missed out, finishing in 5th place by ~250 votes. Ted Winterer, who has served since 2012, trailed by another 350 votes to finish in 6th place. Ana Maria Jara, who was specially appointed in 2019, fell behind by an additional 800 votes to finish in 7th place and complete the fall of the not-so-mighty incumbents.
SMMUSD Board of Education: A Fresh Face
Voters were asked to select three of eight possible candidates. Two incumbents were running and both won re-election.
Jon Kean, current President of the Board, received 20,000 votes. He’ll continue his work. Maria Leon-Vazquez, despite some controversy in her past, received 19,000 votes and will remain in her position.
The third spot, left vacant by a retiring member, was an interesting contest. A few parents vied for the spot alongside an economist and former PTA President. You’ve likely seen yard signs advertising support for some of the candidates.
Ultimately, Jennifer (Jen) Smith won the contest by a healthy margin of 7,000 votes. She has served two terms as PTA President and has held positions as Legislative Representative, Historian, and Parliamentarian. She’s ready for the position, to say the least.
Rent Control Board: Both Incumbents Stay
Caroline Torosis and Anastasia Foster won with 36% and 34% of the vote, respectively. It’s likely that nearly half of all voters skipped this race: neither candidate received more than 23,000 votes.
SMC Board of Trustees: All Three Incumbents Win
Susan Aminoff, Margaret Quinones-Perez, and Rob Greenstein Rader will all return to their positions. The only other candidate, Brian O’Neil, received 10,000 fewer votes than the third place finisher.
That’s all the local races that Santa Monicans voted on this year! Free free to follow me on Twitter for more updates as the candidates take office in the coming months.