The Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR) steering committee voted Saturday not to challenge Republican landlord Robert Kronovet's 45-vote victory that made him the first candidate opposed by the powerful tenants group to win a seat on the Rent Control Board.
The vote not to call for a recount came after SMRR leaders were assured by officials at the Los Angeles County Registrar's office that the vote count -- which gave Kronovet a 15,186 to 15,124 victory over SMRR candidate Chris Braun -- was accurate.
Rent Board President Joel C. Koury, who was backed by SMRR, finished first in a landslide with 22,601 votes in the race for two open seats.
"We investigated the balloting process and had discussions with the registrar to make sure the votes were correctly counted and processed," said Dennis Zane, a founder and leader of SMRR.
"At the end, we felt there was no compelling reason to call for a recount," Zane said. "It was generally agreed that nothing was amiss."
Kronovet said he was ready for a recount, but was not surprised SMRR decided against embarking on a process that would have cost the group between $50,000 and $60,000, according to his campaign's estimates.
"I was prepared to meet them head on, because the voters had spoken," Kronovet said. "We weren't going to give them an inch on the recount.
"It would have cost them a lot of money, and they would not have prevailed," he said.
A self-described "fiscal conservative and social liberal," Kronovet vowed to bring change to the five-member rent board, which has been monopolized by SMRR since its founding 30 years ago.
"We're going to establish the checks and balances the rent control board hasn't had," Kronovet said. "There's going to be more of a balance between tenants' needs and landlords' needs. It's not going to be a one-sided committee."
Kronovet said he plans to team up with the four SMRR board members to create a rent board that "works with neighborhoods."
"I'm going to work with all of them," said Kronovet , who chairs the Pico Improvement District. "The taxpayer doesn't want us bickering. They want results, and we're going to give it to them."
"I represent all the voters in the city of Santa Monica - all those who voted for Kronovet and all those who voted against Kronovet," he said. "They voted for leadership, and I'm going to give it to them."
Zane said the steering committee weighed whether Kronovet would be a "disruptive" force on the board.
"There is always a concern whether one individual would be disruptive or not," said Zane. "But Kronovet is not likely to be disruptive."
The mistake SMRR made was taking the rent board race for granted in a year that saw little drama in the local contests, Zane said.
The powerful tenants group chose to back only two candidates in the race for four open seats on the City Council, the first time that had ever happened in the group's 30-year history. SMRR also backed the front runners in the races for School and College boards that saw only four candidates running for three seats in each contest.
"The lesson to be learned is that we not take the rent board seats for granted" Zane said. "It appeared that the elections had no drama."
Kronovet, who had made previous bids for Rent Board and City Council, capitalized on name recognition and on a record turnout that saw thousands of new voters.
"He had built up an identity," said Zane, who is a political strategist and consultant. "And there were a lot of voters who did not have a history of voting, and he squeaked through."
Kronovet, who won in an overwhelmingly Democratic city once dubbed "the People's Republic," capitalized on a high turnout for the Presidential race and a campaign that focused on cashing in on the Republican turnout.
Now, he hopes the election will be a shot in the arm for a party that represents less than 20 14 percent of Santa Monica's electorate.
"Robert Kronovet and the other members are going to rebuild the Republican Party out," he said. "This election was a rebirth for the Republican Party in California."
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