Landlords responded angrily in the final weeks of the campaign. A flyer circulated among voters charged that "Santa Monica Politicians Can't Think for Themselves." It characterized Mayor Reed and the rest of the council as puppets of Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica).
Proposition M was overwhelmingly defeated in June. In the aftermath of the bloody campaign, landlords threatened to run their own slate of council candidates in November. Such a slate would have little chance of winning. But a field of conservatives could draw votes away from the coalition.
"The landlords could very well hurt us by running candidates," said Councilman Jennings. "But we're not going to suddenly move to the right to prevent that from happening. We would hope that these people would realize that our viewpoints are valid . . . and that we're not close-minded."
The leadership of Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights hopes to gain strength from the coalition's weaknesses. Tenant activists contend that their political opponents have become almost invisible during their tenure at City Hall.
The renter faction will hold a convention Aug. 3. They are expected to nominate at least two people, probably former Councilwoman Press and Rent Control Board Commissioner David Finkel, to challenge the coalition slate.
"The coalition always wanted to characterize us as radicals," said Councilman Zane, a tenant activist. "But we have shown an ability to govern responsibly. And that makes it difficult for them to organize against us. . . . It looks like they're trying to appeal to our constituents. But as a result, they are losing support from some of the people in their own camp."
Reed, who has served on the council since 1975, maintains that Zane and other detractors are jumping the gun. The coalition's wounds could easily heal between before November, Reed said. Besides, the coalition continues to provide the only alternative to ultra-liberal politics, Epstein said.
"The business community still prefers us over Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights," Epstein said. "Homeowners are still behind us. Even some moderate tenants are behind us. . . . We've done a good job."