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Himmelrich Spent $160,000 of Her Own Money to Win Santa Monica Council Seat

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

February 3, 2015 -- Sue Himmelrich entered the record books to win her seat on the Santa Monica City Council in November. She spent $160,000 of her own money, according to her semi-annual campaign statement posted on the City’s website.

This total is more than previous top self-funder Bobby Shriver, who put up $125,000 in 2004.

But unlike Himmelrich, Shriver raised more money from supporters than he spent from his own pocket to bring his total spending to nearly $400,000, which is a Santa Monica council record. 

Himmelrich managed to collect only $13,000 from supporters. She was not the only candidate to dig deep into her own pockets.

Former Mayor Mike Feinstein spent at least $74,000 of his own money (he did not submit an official semi-annual campaign statement by the February 2 deadline, so the total could be higher). Planning Commissioner Richard McKinnon spent $72,000.

While Himmelrich’s self-spending helped her to finish second in the 14-candidate field for three seats, it was not as beneficial enough for McKinnon and Feinstein. They placed seventh and eighth, respectively.   

The other two candidates who earned seats in the election -- incumbents Kevin McKeown (first) and Pam O’Connor (third) -- spent none of their own money. 

This duo of political rivals also topped the list of most money collected from supporters, with O’Connor raising $60,000 and McKeown bringing in $43,000.

Both McKeown and O’Connor spent less money than they collected, and their campaigns have cash balances of $8,000 and $6,000, respectively

Phil Brock, who placed fourth in the election, spent $52,000. He put up $27,000 of his own money. Fifth-place finisher Frank Gruber spent $75,000, including $20,000 of his own money.

Planning Commissioner Jennifer Kennedy, who placed sixth, spent $20,000. All of her money came from supporters. McKinnon spent $106,000. 


Various political groups added money to the council race to support or oppose specific candidates.

Responsible Leadership for a Better Santa Monica, which was headed by Councilmeber Terry O’Day (who was not up for re-election) spent nearly $70,000 to support O’Connor and Gruber.

Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City, which its supporters say is a slow- or smart-growth group, spent $43,000 to oppose O’Connor. It also put up nearly $10,000 to support McKeown, Himmelrich and McKinnon.

The powerful Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) spent nearly $160,000 in the November campaign. 

Only a portion of SMRR's money went toward promoting its endorsed council candidates McKeown, Himmelrich and Kennedy. Other money was spent on the races for the school, college and rent boards, as well as ballot measure campaigns.

Additional groups that were a financial factor in the council election included Community for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS) for O’Connor and Gruber; Unite Here Local 11 union for Gruber and McKeown, as well as the City employees union for O'Connor, McKeown and Feinstein.

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