Election Wrap-Up: The Sequel

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Fellow Democrats,

Now that the final results of the November election have been certified, I have repeated the statistics I did for the March primary, comparing how our endorsed candidates did in Culver City compared to in Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and the County or State as a whole. This can show where these cities are politically: do Santa Monica and West Hollywood live up to their progressive reputations, etc. I remind you that Noah Zatz found Culver City voted to the left of Santa Monica in national, state, and county contests in 2020. In the context of this Club, I am also interested in gauging the power of our endorsement. This is largely speculative: I have not surveyed voters on what influenced their choices. However, in some contests, particularly the judicial ones, our mailer may have been the only piece of mail most local voters received.

 Here are the numbers. Note that I only included nonpartisan or Democrat-on-Democrat contests, and only ones where we endorsed.

Lola Smallwood-Cuevas did much better in Culver City and district-wide than in the primary. Her margins suggest, assuming she picked up all of her progressive competitors Kamilah Moore and Jamaal Gulledge’s voters and AAGLA President Cheryl Turner received all those of Republican Joe Lisuzzo, some of Turner’s primary voters also switched over. In addition to our endorsement, several unions also sent mailers for Smallwood-Cuevas, due to her strong credentials as a labor activist. I am proud that we supported her but am cautious about taking too much credit for her victory.

For Sheriff, every candidate eliminated in the primary endorsed Robert Luna, but Alex Villanueva scored five to seven percent higher in the general than in the primary in each jurisdiction I looked at, while still being resoundingly defeated. Did he pick up some of the other candidates’ votes, or did the general election activate more conservative voters than the primary?

In the primary, the judicial elections were the best test of our influence, because voters received few if any other mailings about them, except for transparently pay-for-play slate mailers. We were the only Culver City organization to present judicial candidates to voters. Ten spoke at our monthly meetings and were recorded for our YouTube channel, and six also met voters in-person at our Fiesta La Ballona booth. Patrick Hare had an easy victory in the general, as he did in the primary. The four women running as the Defenders of Justice: Holly Hancock, Elizabeth Lashley-Haynes, Jiyoung Park, and Anna Reitano, were fighting the odds as public defenders in a system which has traditionally favored District Attorneys. While we can take some credit for all four leading in Culver City in the primary, Reitano and Park came in second in their races countywide, with Lashley-Haynes making it into first by just one percent. Only Hancock prevailed overall in the general, and Park slipped to second in Culver City. What changed? First, every candidate eliminated in the primary was to the Defenders’ right and their voters likely coalesced around their opponents. Second, the LA Times endorsed the opponent of every Defender except Hancock. The failure of the press to adequately cover the Culver City election was a major theme of last month’s message. On the county level we see the other side of the power of the press: nothing else in the region has the reach or authority of the LA Times. Finally, the LA County Bar Association rated Park “not qualified.” These ratings carry enormous influence. However, they are structurally biased in favor of prosecutors. Park is a labor lawyer, so she works in hearings, not trials, and LACBA can give a “not qualified” for a lack of trial experience, even though there are many excellent lawyers who only see courtrooms on TV. Even worse, there are serious reports that LACBA raters treat women and people of color unfairly. The Times acknowledged these in their endorsement statement, but only in passing.

The Culver City section of the ballot does not allow us to compare Culver City to other communities, since those contests are uniquely ours, or the general election to the primary, since this section was general-only, but note that our endorsements were successful in five of seven local contests. For the two losses, I will remind you of two numbers: sixteen and $480,000. The former is, ironically, the number of votes that Measure VY lost by. Culver City came within one tenth of a percentage point of leading the nation in empowering young people. Never doubt that your vote matters. In contrast, $480,000 is the latest count of how much Michael Hackman spent to elect Dan O’Brien to the City Council. The final total will be even higher, but Hackman Partners’ most recent campaign finance forms were filed on paper and have not yet been scanned and uploaded by the City. That’s $63.70 for each vote that O’Brien received, or $34.44 per vote if you count those cast for Denice Renteria, who Hackman’s PAC and his astroturf proxies unsuccessfully backed. These stacks will cast their shadow over City Hall for at least the next two years.

Thank you again for participating in this process. Our endorsements were chosen directly by your votes and our campaigning was funded entirely by your contributions. If you have not yet renewed your membership for 2023, now’s the time!

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