The Insider is an occasional feature that takes a look at politics in West Hollywood from the perspective of various of the city’s political cognoscenti.
The money (and we don’t mean campaign contributions) was on John Heilman at a meeting last night of the Beverly Hills / West Hollywood Democratic Club. Twenty-nine of the club’s 47 members voted to endorse him in the June 2 special election for a seat on the West Hollywood City Council.
Those attending included Councilmember John D’Amico, who spoke in favor of challenger Heidi Shink, and Council newcomers Lauren Meister and Lindsey Horvath, who won in the March 3 election. Also there were Abbe Land, the longtime Council member who decided not to run for re-election on March 3, and James “Duke” Mason, an unsuccessful candidate in the March 3 election who has endorsed Heilman. William Brien, a member of the Beverly Hills City Council, also attended. John Duran was the only current WeHo Council member who wasn’t there.
Larry Block and Cole Ettman, the other two candidates in the June 2 race, attended the meeting, as did Steve Martin, a former Council member, who endorsed Ettman.
Most political insiders expect a very low turnout in the June 2 election (only 20 percent of voters cast ballots in the March 3 election, and it’s likely that some degree of campaign fatigue already is setting in). So the thinking is that the Club’s endorsement of Heilman is significant. A key question is whether the base of supporters that Heilman has built in his 30 years on the Council will turn out to vote. In a reference to the age of some of those supporters, D’Amico has said that 250 of Heilman’s voters die every year.
Another question is where Shink’s base of support lies, other than with John D’Amico. A lesbian feminist and a member of the city’s Planning Commission, Shink stumbled last month when a photograph of her at the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel with three friends was posted on the Facebook page of one of those friends, Catherine Gray, who is owner of a video production company. “Night out with the amazing power ladies at BHH!” the photo caption read. LGBT and women’s rights supporters are boycotting that hotel because it is part of a group controlled by the Sultan of Brunei, who is implementing severe forms of the Sharia law that call for amputation and death by stoning of gay and lesbian people and those who have sex outside of marriage. After West Hollywood activists protested about her appearance at the hotel, Shink apologized.
Now insiders are wondering if there will be any similar fallout from an April 19 fundraiser for Shink at the Beverly Hills estate of Ron Burkle, a billionaire owner of Yucaipa Companies. Another owner of Yucaipa is an entity connected to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, an Islamic nation also known for its homophobia. (By law someone involved in consensual gay sex in Dubai can be sentenced to up to ten years in prison. However the law isn’t rigidly enforced). Former President Bill Clinton, a third owner of Yucaipa, severed his ties with Burkle, reportedly out of concern that Yucaipa’s connection with foreign investment entities such as the sheik’s Dubai Investment Group would cause problems for Hillary Clinton in her race for president. Clinton, with a reputation as a womanizer, also had drawn unwanted attention for his frequent travels with Burkle on the billionaire’s private Boeing 757. A story about Clinton in Vanity Fair noted Burkle’s reputation for traveling with very young women and said his aides privately referred to the plane as “Air F–k One.”
The fundraiser will be co-hosted by Cher along with John D’Amico and WeHo animal rights activist Ed Buck. Cher is the mother of Chaz Bono, who dated Shink before Bono transitioned from a woman named Chastity into a man. An invite to the private event lists suggested donations of $10,000 for a “host,” $5,000 for a “co-host,” and $1,000 for a “couple.” The invitation notes that there is a maximum contribution of $500 per person, which means the “host” would have to aggregate donations from 20 people to avoid violating West Hollywood campaign finance laws.