Santa Monica City Councilman Alan Katz has emerged as the only incumbent without major opposition in the November elections.
Katz, who has tried to distance himself from the city's two political factions during his nine-month council tenure, won a nod of approval from the liberal Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights on Sunday when the group decided not to run a candidate against him.
The moderate All Santa Monica Coalition, the group that successfully supported Katz' appointment to the council, also will not be running a candidate against him.
"I'm impressed with both groups," said Katz, who is running to complete the final two years of the late Ken Edwards' term. "This is obviously in my interest, but I think it's also in the city's interest. It shows that the factions have grown up."
Spirits were high in both camps Sunday as Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights and the All Santa Monica Coalition held get-togethers. Four of the seven City Council seats will be up for grabs in November and each faction has decided to back a slate of three candidates.
Coalition members attended a barbecue to reaffirm their support for Mayor Christine E. Reed and Councilmen David G. Epstein and William H. Jennings.
Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights turned out for their annual convention and endorsed former Councilwoman Dolores Press, Rent Control Board Commissioner David Finkel and activist Julie Lopez Dad as their slate of candidates for the three at-large council seats.
The fall election is seen as a major political test for both groups. It will be the first chance for Santa Monica's 54,873 voters, 80% of whom are tenants, to indicate whether they prefer the coalition government that has controlled City Hall for the past two years, or the tenant activist government that preceded it.
Both organizations are fielding strong candidates and both expect to spend between $150,000 and $250,000. Terry Pullan, a longtime leader in the coalition, was host for the backyard barbecue.
"We are cautiously optimistic," Pullan said. "We are feeling good about the campaign, but we realize that in the 1983 and '84 elections we had to give a 110% effort to be successful. For us to be as successful this year, we will have to work just as hard. We can't afford to be complacent just because our candidates are incumbents. Santa Monica is not typical of other cities."
Listened to Speeches
About 100 coalition supporters ate hot dogs as they listened to speeches by coalition candidates. Tom Larmore also led the group in a sing-along that featured several songs specially tailored for the campaign.
Mayor Reed, who has served on the council since 1975, longer than any of her colleagues, said she is already knocking on doors.
"I'm working hard," Reed said. "I'm encouraged by the response that we're getting from people, but it's too early to make any predictions. There is an advantage to being an incumbent, but you can't just coast on that label. In this city people pay attention to the issues and care about them."
Meanwhile, Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights had gathered at the Retail Clerks Hall on Second Street, their traditional meeting ground. The group gained national prominence when it promoted passage of a tough rent control law in 1979, and won the majority of the council seats in 1981. Tenants lost the majority in 1984, however, after Councilwoman Press failed to qualify for the ballot.
Councilman Dennis Zane, one of two tenant activists still sitting on the council, was a keynote speaker. He called the All Santa Monica Coalition an "imposter" government and said tenants must reclaim City Hall.
"We must move into the neighborhoods and tell our neighbors we can no longer accept a government of imposters," Zane told about 250 supporters on Sunday. "We have animated the vision and provided the leadership to make things happen. The future of the community is at stake."
The five-hour convention, the first held by Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights since it organized into a general-membership organization, proceeded fairly smoothly. Some members objected when the steering committee unanimously recommended against challenging Katz, saying the group should try to win all four seats, but the motion was approved by a 135-35 vote.
At the same time, the membership reserved the right to endorse a Katz challenger later. The group said Katz should remain neutral in the campaign.
Later, some members were surprised when Ocean Park activist Dad edged out former Planning Commission Chairwoman Susan Cloke for the third spot on the group's council slate. Cloke was considered the front-runner for the spot and had the backing of several prominent politicians, including Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica) and Councilmen Zane and James Conn.