Political veteran Torie Osborn on Sunday received the endorsement of the Malibu Democratic Club in the campaign for the state Assembly's 50th District seat. Opponent Betsy Butler, who currently represents another district in the Assembly, said Osborn gained the backing unfairly because her campaign recruited people to join the club so they could vote for her.
Club members made the selection at following a one-hour forum, which was the first of the campaign featuring the three Democratic candidates. Republican hopeful Brad Torgan was not invited to the event.
Osborn received 42 votes. Thirteen favored making no endorsement, five selected Butler and nobody backed Santa Monica Mayor/California Coastal Commissioner Richard Bloom.
"I'm over the moon," Osborn said in an interview with Patch after receiving the endorsement. "It's my first one [from a local Democratic club]. It was decisive and it feels like a dry run for the whole campaign."
She said she was not involved in recruiting club members, but admitted her campaign "organized some people to either re-up [their memberships] or join."
"It's a pretty common practice to use the candidates forums to do recruitment drives," Osborn said.
Butler said the vote was not a reflection of the candidates' popularity in Malibu, stating she has support of several current and former local political leaders as well as business leaders. Butler said she heard Osborn got 42 people to join the club prior to the deadline to be an eligible voter, which was 30 days before the event, and one person paid for the memberships with one check.
Club President Jean Goodman wrote in an email to Patch, "We received a $1,000 contribution for payment of dues for a group of Torie Osborn supporters [with each membership costing $25] ... as to the name of the contributor, we will disclose that in our next report to the Secretary of State."
Malibu member Pamela Conley Ulich said the club voting rules prevented several Malibu residents from being able to participate. She said they were not aware they had to pay the membership fee 30 days prior to the session. When Conley Ulich asked people to raise their hands if they were Malibu residents, only about half the attendees did it.
"This will not be a Malibu endorsement, it's a Santa Monica endorsement," she told Patch.
If a majority of the people were Santa Monica residents, they were obviously not Santa Monicans who believe their mayor is the best person to represent them in the Assembly. But Bloom said he was not bothered about receiving zero votes.
"This was an accurate reflection of who was in the room," said Bloom when asked about the meaning of the results.
Bloom noted a study done by the polling and research firm Lauer Johnson Research, which was hired by his campaign, that determined he had the most support and name recognition in the district (a memo regarding the results of the study is attached).
He said he was also not concerned that Osborn and Butler have received most of the prominent endorsements.
"I think they've spent more time in the endorsement process," Bloom said. "I'm really happy with the endorsements I have. But I'm very focused with running for office and doing my job as the mayor of Santa Monica. So I'm focusing in on the core responsibility of campaigning, and that's reaching out to voters and the people who are ultimately going to be casting those ballots."
The three candidates are liberal Democrats, so there was little disagreement on major issues that were discussed during the forum. They all said education spending should be a priority. Osborn and Butler said they oppose the death penalty. Bloom said he only supports it in "exceptional cases," including "mass murder where there is an admission and the evidence is crystal clear."
Regarding an issue specific to Malibu, the candidates said they want to focus on Pacific Coast Highway safety. They said traffic must be slowed on Malibu's main road.
When asked about their opinions on the recently approved that will lead to the construction of a sewer plant in the Civic Center Area, none of the candidates answered the question. Bloom said tax breaks should be given to people building new and expensive septic systems. Osborn said she would work to make sure Malibu residents' opinions are heard. Butler praised the construction of , which is used for storm water management, not wastewater treatment.
There was some rowdiness when the candidates were asked about the . Several project opponents, who wore their identifying green shirts, booed Bloom when he said he supports the plan. Club President Goodman briefly stopped the forum and told people to be courteous to the candidates.
"I understand there are different views on this subject, but at some point we have to decide when the process has ended and it's time to move forward," said Bloom, who chairs the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, which is involved in the project. "And I think in this case, the process has been broad and inclusive and we achieved the right result."
Butler said she had spoken to both sides about the project, and would like to speak to more people, including scientists. Osborn said the plan was "overkill … based on old science." She said the project, which has received all needed government approvals and withstood a lawsuit (that could be appealed), should not go through.
"If the project goes ahead and new science is ignored, I will be [at the Malibu Lagoon] for the scheduled start on June 1, [standing in front of the bulldozers]," Osborn told Patch after the forum. "You don't need to pave over paradise. We need to do something there. Everybody knows we need to do something, but I've been convinced … that the very least we can do is take a timeout, say 'what’s the big hurry and let's look at the new science.'"
The next forum, hosted by the Pacific Palisades Democratic Club, will take place Jan. 15 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the . The Santa Monica Democratic Club will host a forum Jan. 17 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the .