With the deadline for filling a Santa Monica City Council vacancy less than three weeks away, the list of applicants for the job is growing. But council members said no one has emerged as a clear front runner.
Several community and business leaders are vying for the seat left open by the death of Councilman Ken Edwards. City Hall observers said, however, said that none of them qualifies as a consensus candidate.
Four Votes Needed
"Nobody has the votes at this point," said Councilman James Conn. "There's a good possibility that nobody (on the council) likes anybody."
Four votes are needed to fill the council vacancy. The All Santa Monica Coalition, which holds four of the seven council seats, could appoint a replacement without the support of the rival Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights. But Mayor Christine E. Reed has vowed to seek an accord.
Reed called it "unfair" to replace Edwards, a renters' rights leader, with someone unacceptable to Edwards' two council allies. At the same time, Reed acknowledged that her organization is looking for someone to run on the coalition slate (with or without renters' rights support) in next year's election.
"It would be my hope that we would appoint someone that both organizations would be comfortable supporting," Reed said. "It's probably impossible to find someone who's absolutely in the middle, but the person doesn't have to be in agreement with Chris Reed on every issue. . . . I don't want (renter activists) to think they're being shut out of this government.'
Councilman Dennis Zane, a renter activist, was skeptical about the chances of finding a candidate who would appeal to both political factions. If the coalition really wanted to be fair, Zane said it should agree not to endorse the new appointee in next year's election. But he admitted that was unlikely.
The choice of Edwards' replacement is considered pivotal for several reasons. Although the city is less divided than it was at the height of the rent control struggle, the two factions that control Santa Monica politics--the moderate coalition and the liberal renters' rights organization--continue to compete at election time.
With the appointment, the coalition will have a 5-2 majority on the council, its largest hold ever and enough votes to hire, fire and make changes in the budget. The appointee also becomes an incumbent in the November, 1986, election, when the coalition will be fighting to retain all but one of its seats. In addition, the appointee would be expected to support coalition positions favoring modifications in the rent control law and better opportunities for business.
Finally, the appointee will be replacing Edwards, the most popular politician in recent Santa Monica history, and both organizations agree that the new council member should uphold his commitment to conciliation.
The seven people who have made serious overtures to the council or have been seriously discussed are: Pete Barrett, a retired businessman; Alan Katz, an attorney and former Assembly candidate; Martin Sosin, an attorney and Santa Monica Arts Commission member; Nat Trives, a criminal justice professor who served as the city's only black mayor; Irene Zivi, the coalition-backed runner-up in last year's council election; Judy Gewertz, a member of the city's Commission on Older Americans, and Eileen Hecht, a city planning commissioner.
Although it is a nonpartisan race, Council members said two of the contenders--Sosin and Barrett--may be handicapped because they are Republicans in a predominantly Democratic city. Some council members respect Trives' political experience but say he may not be interested in running. And two others, Gewertz and Hecht, are considered dark horses because their prime support comes from minority council members Conn and Dennis Zane.
That makes Katz and Zivi appear to be the prime contenders, according to people close to City Hall, who cautioned that others could enter the race later. And although Conn and Zane said they will probably unite behind the same candidate when the votes are cast, coalition members may find themselves divided.
"In the first round of voting there may be a three- or four-way split among candidates," said Mayor Pro Tem William Jennings, a coalition member. "Right now it's wide open, although I'd expect to see some people withdraw their names from the competition."
"You want somebody who's going to do a good job," said Councilman David Epstein, another coalition member. "You also want someone who's going to be a conciliator like (Edwards) and not too far from where Ken was politically. All the people mentioned fit that in a broad sense."
"It should be a person whom all of us on the council can accept," said Herb Katz, the fourth coalition representative. "But that's a tough order. If we can do it and that person can remain non-endorsed (by either political faction in the upcoming election) or totally endorsed, that's beautiful."