Marina del Rey resident Betsy Butler handily won the endorsement of the Santa Monica Democratic Club this week in her bid to represent the Westside and portions of Los Angeles in the California Assembly.
Former Santa Monica mayor Denny Zane and current councilman Kevin McKeown introduced Butler to the voting membership, totaling about 80 people, on Tuesday. They called her a "warrior" for the environment, living wages and farm workers.
She garnered the endorsement by a comfortable margin of 77 percent.
She's running against Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom to represent the 50th Assembly District in the Nov. 6 election. He was ushered to the podium Tuesday by a supporter of community organizer Torie Osborn, who was in the June primary after garnering endorsements from several Democratic clubs in the area, .
Not surprisingly, the Democrats' answers to questions were similar, but Bloom took some heat from fellow councilman McKeown and an audience member, when he side-stepped her question asking whether he believed candidates who accept contributions from developers should refrain from voting on matters involving those developers.
Bloom's response was to assure the audience that "anybody running" for a political office "abides by strict campaign disclosure laws."
Butler didn't answer the question directly, either, saying instead that she has a "long list" of industries from which she does not accept donations. She named oil, insurance and cash advance companies, but not developers.
"I would be careful about taking [any donations] that could be misconstrued as making me biased," she said.
McKeown, meanwhile, blurted out a criticism of Bloom from his seat in the audience, jabbing the mayor "for taking all the credit for the good things happening in Santa Monica."
Responding later during a Q&A with the club members, Bloom said he takes credit for the successes because he's a "team player" who "brings people together."
"Help send a little Santa Monica-style success to Sacramento!" he said.
The two Democrats are seeking to be the first representatives of the newly carved 50th Assembly District, which covers Agoura Hills, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and Hollywood.
The candidates were asked a few other questions from the audience, including ones that gauged their views of California's high speed rail and the future of the Santa Monica Airport.
The questions and answers are below. They were edited and condensed for clarity.
— Can you speak to your support or lack of support for the high speed train initative, the so-called bullet train?
Bloom: I support high speed rail in California. It is a technology that we need to have in this country. The way we're going about it in California has been disgraceful. It started out with a budget that is one-third of what it is now. That is disgraceful. If we have limited dollars — if I have my way about it — we would be spending those dollars right now in our urban areas.
Butler: I'm a huge supporter of high speed rail. This is about making the investments now we need decades down the line. We're going to have 50 million people living here in the next 20 years. We need to prepare for that, and we need to have as many options as possible. By law, for us to get federal funds, you have to get a train going 220 miles per hour — that train can't go 220 miles per hour through L.A. or Orange County, so that's why we're starting in the Central Valley.
— What will you do to help curb the noise, the pollution and the ongoing safety threats at Santa Monica Airport?
Butler: I'm a huge supporter of Ted Lieu's efforts to find out what the heck is in the air and how it's affecting the residents around the airport. There are way too many airplanes going in there. When people moved into that area, we didn't have the flight training schools that are there now. There are too many jets and they're too big. I don't think the federal government will ever actually let this airport go, but I wanna work with you to make sure it's what the community wants, because if I can do legislation in Sacramento, I will.
Bloom: I've been working on this issue for about 25 years. It is a very complicated issue. We are finally in the process now of looking at what our options are. The FAA has a lot of jurisdiction here. The city of Santa Monica has fought the good fight over and over again... [we need to make] a better airport that is friendlier to our local residents or it's going to have to go. We have to try to find the best solution for our community. Once I'm elected to the state Assembly, whatever decision is made in Sacramento, I'll stand side by side fighting with this community.