With 4 Open Seats Likely and at Least 9 Challengers, There’s a Possibility for Major Change
UPDATE: As of Sept. 16, the field has changed slightly. Declared candidates are Mayor John D’Amico and Councilmember John Heilman (Councilmember Abbe Land hasn’t stated her intention) as well as Larry Block, Cole Ettman, Lucas John Junkin, James Duke Mason, Matt Fritch and Heidi Shink. Sam Borelli has announced that he will not be in the race.
[dropcap]C[/dropcap]ampaigns for county offices by two incumbents may leave four or all five West Hollywood City Council seats up for grabs in the March 2015 election. And already at least 15 people have tossed their hats into the political ring or are rumored to considering that.
That could mean a major shakeup in a city whose political establishment is as entrenched as was the Politburo of the former Soviet Union. Consider: With the exception of Steve Martin, no sitting council member has ever lost a re-election campaign. And when one takes John D’Amico out of the equation, the remaining four council members governing this 30-year-old city have an average tenure of 20 years. (D’Amico, a relative newcomer, in 2011 defeated Lindsey Horvath, who sat on the council briefly as an appointee).
The result has been a council whose members have been variously referred to as “oligarchs” and “martinets,” whose re-election campaigns have been funded largely and handsomely by outside business interests and city vendors and who have refused to enact campaign reforms such as those in place in progressive cities like San Francisco.
Likely on the March 2015 ballot (unless one of them decides not to run) are John Heilman, who has sat on the council for 30 years; Abbe Land, a 21-year veteran, and D’Amico, who now has three years under his belt. D’Amico, by the way, insists that if he wins the 2015 election it will be his last council campaign.
Councilmembers Jeffrey Prang and John Duran, each on the council for 16 years, were re-elected last March and already are running for Los Angeles County positions. Prang is considered by political observers to have a good shot at winning the race for Los Angeles County Assessor. He works in the County Assessor’s office and has garnered endorsements from more than 200 political figures, including state Assemblymember Richard Bloom, Congressman Adam Schiff and state Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Senate President Darrell Steinberg. Organizations that have endorsed him are as varied as organized labor’s AFSCME Local 3339 and the Southern California Armenian Democrats and the gay Stonewall Democratic Club.
Duran is seen as far less likely to win his campaign to replace Zev Yaroslavsky as L.A. County Supervisor for the Third District, especially with former Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver’s recent entry into the race. Shriver, the nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy, is a lawyer but is best know for his philanthropic activities. Other competitors are former state lawmaker Sheila Kuehl and former Malibu Mayor Pamela Conley Ulich. Beverly Hills City Councilmember Willie Brien also is rumored to be considering a run.
In addition to D’Amico, Heilman and Land, nine other West Hollywood residents have told WEHOville or others in the community that they will run. They are, in alphabetical order:
Larry Block. Block, owner of the Block Party men’s apparel stores in West Hollywood and Palm Springs, is a member of the city’s Disabilities Advisory Board and has become known for his calls at City Council meetings for restoring the gay rainbow flag to City Hall and for campaign reform.
Sam Borelli. Borelli is a self-employed communications consultant who has served on various city committees including the West Hollywood Sheriff’s LGBT Conference Committee and as Public Safety Commission liaison to the Transgender Task Force (now advisory board). He has been a public relations consultant to Christopher Street West, which stages the annual LA Pride events. Borelli was an unsuccessful candidate in the 2013 council race.
Cole Ettman. Ettman, chief operating officer of the Levine & Blit, a Beverly Hills law firm, is vice chair of WeHo’s Public Facilities Commission, to which he was appointed by Councilmember Jeffrey Prang in 2012. The commission reviews proposed development of public facilities such as parks and the library.
Matt Fritch. Fritch is executive director for security at Andrews International, in which role he oversees security at Sunset Bronson Studios and Sunset Gower Studios. Fritch also has served on the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Legislative Action Committee and Heroes of Hollywood Committee and is a board member of the Hollywood Chamber Community Foundation.
Lucas John Junkin. Junkin, popularly referred to as Lucas John, is an event promoter responsible for events such as “Booty Bumping Fridays” and “Welfare Tuesdays” at Fubar. He is perhaps best known for his blog, WeHo Confidential, which carries gossip about local personalities. Last year the city’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board endorsed his proposal that the city stage a leather and fetish festival in celebration of “Vaseline Alley,” a gay cruising area behind Gold Coast bar.
Lauren Meister. Meister, a 20-year West Hollywood resident, is a market research consultant and civic activist. Meister is a former member of the city’s Planning Commission, Public Safety Commission, Committee for Campaign Finance Reform, Melrose (District 1) Parking Steering Committee and Permit Parking Advisory Group. She has served on the board and as president and CEO of the West Hollywood West Residents Association. Meister also chaired the “Yes on Measure C” committee that led a successful campaign for term limits for the West Hollywood City Council. She was an unsuccessful candidate in the 2009 council election.
Donna Saur. Saur is a member of the West Hollywood Public Facilities Commission and deputy to the late WeHo Councilmember Sal Guariello. She confirmed to WEHOville last year her interest in running for the council in 2015. “I plan to,” Saur said, noting then that the election was still a year and a half away. “We never know what fate has in store for us, but as long as my life is fruitful and I can be helpful, I will run.”
Tristan Schukraft. Schukraft is a former model turned digital entrepreneur who, at the age of 21, founded ID90, a travel information portal for airline employees. Schukraft was an unsuccessful candidate in the 2013 council election.
Nir Zilberman. Zilberman is owner of LA Jock, an apparel brand and store that markets to gay men, and of Man Trends Agency, which licenses and markets male underwear brands. Zilberman stepped into the limelight recently by organizing a rally outside his LA Jock store to protest anti-gay laws in Russia and by placing a mannequin dressed in a Nazi concentration camp uniform in another store window as part of the protest.
Other candidates who seasoned political observers see as likely, but who either have not responded to WEHOville’s calls or emails for confirmation or have declined to confirm are, again in alphabetical order:
Tom DeMille. DeMille has had four unsuccessful runs for a council seat. He is a frequent speaker at City Council meetings, which he has attended for 22 years. He worked with Organizing for America on President Barack Obama’s election campaign.
Lindsey Horvath. Horvath is vice president for communication at NationBuilder, a digital community organizing system based in Los Angeles. She currently chairs the WeHo Transportation Commission and is regional coordinator for the V-Day One Billion Rising campaign among other public service positions. Horvath was appointed to the City Council in 2009 to fill a seat left vacant on the death of Sal Guariello. She was defeated in the 2011 council election.
Michael Jay. Jay is a partner in Cardiff Giant, which owns restaurants and nightspots such as the Hudson and DBA in West Hollywood as well as The Churchill, Clover Juices and Fifty Seven. Jay is a member of the board of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and of the city’s Eastside Task Force. Jay declined to confirm whether he would run for the council.
Christopher Landavazo. Landavazo is an L.A. County Deputy Sheriff who also has served as an associate professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Phoenix, Southern California campus and has been active in the Cops for Causes charity. Landavazo told WEHOville that he is “carefully considering where I may best be utilized as a public servant.” Under consideration, he said, are the Los Angeles County Sheriff race, the 33rd District Congressional race and the West Hollywood City Council.
Heidi Shink. Political insiders believe Shink, a member of the city’s Planning Commission, will definitely run for a council seat. However she demurs when asked about her intentions. Shink has a long history of involvement in local political and community organizations. She has served on WeHo’s Human Services Commission and Women’s Advisory Board, as an advocacy board member for the National Council of Jewish Women, as vice-chair of outreach for the Stonewall Democrats, as a member of the West Hollywood/Beverly Hills and Santa Monica Democratic Clubs, as a board member of the Victory Fund’s Campaign Board and as a member of the California Lesbian Project.
Andrew Spanswick. Spanswick is CEO of White Rabbit Partners, which owns and operates the Klean addiction treatment and rehabilitation centers in West Hollywood, Astoria, OR, and Long Beach, WA. Spanswick also is a frequent source for television networks seeking comment from a medical health professional on related issues in the news.
Several other rumored candidates have told WEHOville that they definitely will not run (although when it comes to politics, opinions do change). They are Rob Bergstein, a retired paralegal who has served as a WeHo Rent Stabilization commissioner; Steve Martin, a former council member who was an unsuccessful candidate in the 2013 election; James Duke Mason, an actor and blogger, and Scott Schmidt, one of the leaders of the “Yes on Measure C” term limits campaign and also an unsuccessful council candidate.
The election is a year away, and undoubtedly this roster will change. Meanwhile, feel free to share in our comments section your thoughts on who might be running or should be running. At this early point we are not approving comments endorsing or criticizing announced or potential candidates.
EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story identified Cole Ettman as a resident of Beverly Hills, based on the address for him listed in report filed with the West Hollywood City Clerk of his February 2013 donation to the re-election campaign of Jeffrey Prang. Prang says the address is an error and will be corrected. Ettman says he has lived in West Hollywood for approximately four years. WEHOville.com regrets the error.