Saying “I’m all in,” regarding his campaign to win the newly-drawn 50th Assembly seat a few weeks off, Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom offered ways to differentiate himself from his opponent, 53rd District incumbent Assembly member Betsy Butler, in an exclusive WeHo News interview this week.
“A lot of people are surprised to learn… they say, well, Richard, if you’re not elected to the State Assembly you’ll still be around on the council and we like having you there,” he said.
“I have to correct them and let them know my term is ending and I’m all in on the Assembly race.”
He said that representing the 50th District, “is what I want to do; I see this as the job hopefully for another 12 years,” presuming that once elected, he would hold the seat through the new term limits affecting newly elected California state legislators.
That 12 year term limit, which limits a politician’s service to one house for the 12 years, does not apply to his opponent, he pointed out.
“People typically don’t know that… incumbents come under the old law, so if [Ms. Butler] wins, she gets up to four more years and if I win I would get up to 12 years.”
Mayor Bloom said that dynamic becomes important, “for two reasons; one is that… I have 12 years to do some important things that will be beneficial to everyone in the district.
“The other reason is that over that period of time I would be able to build seniority,” he said.
“There’s nothing more important to a local community than having a member of the state legislature or a member of the US Congress who has seniority. With seniority comes influence,” said Mayor Bloom. “I’ll be able to get more done for our local communities.”
Still, his campaign faces an uphill struggle against a fellow Democrat – one who can run as an incumbent – in the state’s first-ever “top-two” election.
All over the state the electorate is choosing representation in an intra-party rather than inter-party election.
The “jungle primary” this spring often ended up placing two Democrats on the general election ballot where in years past voters would have chosen between a Republican and Democrat.
In a tight June 5 primary election, Ms. Butler held off challenges from three opponents with the help of the state and county Democratic parties, but only barely.
Ms. Butler won the day with 16,051 votes to Mayor Bloom’s 15,921 – a mere 70 vote difference.
West Hollywood Commissioner and Republican Brad Torgan finished third with 15,207 – only 714 votes shy of a place in the General Election – while Democrat Torie Osborn finished with 15,137 – a mere 70 votes behind him.
The number of votes separating the top and bottom placing candidates was a mere 914 votes out of 62,317 cast, only 1.5 percent.
Assembly member Butler spent $625,592.32 to gain a place in the general election while Mayor Bloom spent only $180,707.76 – less than one-third as much.
In the most recent three month reporting period, that between July 1 and Sept. 30, Mayor Bloom reported raising $175,166. Ms. Butler took in $289,736 during the same period.
Mayor Bloom says he is relying on his name recognition – he has been on the Santa Monica City Council for 13 years, a California Coastal Commissioner, Chair of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, Chair of the Westside Cities Council of Governments (a joint powers authority created by the cities of Beverly Hills, Culver City, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, the City of Los Angeles and the County of Los Angeles) and board member of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy – to make up for Ms. Butler’s ability to bring in large amounts of money from all over the state due to her incumbency.
That bodes well for him in this new election dynamic with no Republican on the ballot, because he feels that Republicans who do not sit out will side with him over Ms. Butler – in large part because she has enjoyed such strong support from the Democratic Party.
Another reason, he says, is that moderate Democrats like himself are “empowered” because they better appeal to Republican voters.
Still, he says the job of getting his name in front of the voters is hard work, with phone callers and door knockers button holing voters, mailers going out (he has sent two already) and the work of attending forums moving apace.
Regarding a comparison of his and Ms. Butler’s record of achievement, he says he will put his 13 years on the Santa Monica City Council against her two years’ achievements with gladness.
“My record on issues that are important to people who live in small cities like West Hollywood and Santa Monica, which are cities that are very closely aligned on issues such as the environment, social services and LGBT rights, I think I’m going to be a very attractive candidate.
“In addition, I’ve been a leader in Santa Monica on LGBT issues,” he said, “which will help me throughout the district where there are so many LGBT voters.”
He mentioned passing an equal benefits ordinance 18 months ago in Santa Monica and the fact that he was an early member of Mayors for Freedom to Marry and his role in making sure that Santa Monica filed an amicus brief in a pending Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) case now pending before the US Supreme Court.
He mentioned two other issues he recently helped to implement in Santa Monica of which he is very proud and feels could be a model for the state – a door-through-door para-transit system for seniors and disabled and a first-ever universally accessible playground meant to give able-bodied and disabled youths the same access to playground facilities.
He said that the door-through-door para-transit system is one of which he especially proud, “Santa Monica is second to none in the area of senior services.
"The door-through-door service is one we identified as the most critical need for seniors right now. It’s a little different than the typical curbside services," he said.
“This program provides extra assistance that helps people access transit.
"The driver goes to the door, helps the passenger get into the vehicle, helps them into the doctor or wherever they are going, and then helps them into their home,” after the trip is finished.
At a cost of just short of $500,000, which came from a federal grant, he sees it as a model for the region that can be expanded to the rest of the state.
He said the universally accessible playground excites him, “it’s fantastic, something I’m really proud of,” he said.
“If you’re a child in a wheelchair or a child with a visual or hearing disability, this is a park that is specially built for you.
“This is a playground where children of all abilities will feel comfortable. I can’t think of anything more important than building these kinds of facilities.”
The playground breaks ground this month.