Think WeHo Housing Is Expensive? Consider the Cost of a City Council Seat

June 2015 Election spending chart

It’s not just housing that’s expensive in WeHo. The City Council seat that was up for election in June cost John Heilman and his supporters $435,000, almost enough to buy a one-bedroom condo in West Hollywood.

The latest round of campaign expenditure reports recently released by the City Clerk shows a total of $630,000 was spent by the four candidates and two independent expenditure committees in the race to fill the seat vacated by Jeffrey Prang. The reports show total expenditures through June 30.

Campaign spending per vote.  (Source West Hollywood City Clerk)
Campaign spending per vote. (Source West Hollywood City Clerk)

By contrast, contributions in the 2013 City Council election, when two seats were open, totaled $422,000, or $211,000 per seat. That was a major increase from the 2011 election, when an average of $140,000 was spent on each seat.

While Heilman won the June 2 race, Heidi Shink came in second with campaign spending of $96,000. Larry Block came in third, spending $23,000. And Cole Ettman came in fourth, spending $75,000.

The June special election surprised many observers with its 20 percent turnout, equal to the turnout in the March general election. But each of those votes was costly. For example, each of John Heilman’s 2,315 votes cost his campaign and the two independent committees backing him $188. Each of Cole Ettman’s 486 votes cost $155. Heidi Shink’s campaign spent $69 for each of her 1,403 votes, and Larry Block’s campaign spent $30 for each of his 763 votes.

The candidates themselves had some skin in the game, with each making a loan to himself or herself. By that measure, Cole Ettman’s campaign was the most expensive, costing him personally $103 a vote because of the $50,000 he loaned his campaign. Larry Block’s $20,000 loan means he personally spent $26 a vote. Heidi Shink’s $24,100 loan means each of her votes cost her $17. John Heilman loaned his campaign $10,100, or $4 a vote.


25 Comments
  1. In an ideal world, one voter = one doner ONLY. And there are donor limits per candidate to equalize them. (ie $100 max each voter per candidate)

    No businesses allowed to donate. (only the business owners as ONE voter with the equal limitation. Each worker in the business is one voter each with the same limit)

    No PACs or special interest non profits (unless its flow through money from one voter)

    Until we reform to that ideal, we will have continued and unbalanced financing in elections.

    WeHo is a progressive city. And small enough. We should lead by example of one donor is one voting resident, only.

  2. @all u bitter types: We knew in January there would be an open seat in June. Everyone anticipated the incumbents (JD & JH) would get elected and that the 4th place person would be running in June. Funny the twist of fate that John Heilman was in 4th place by less than 100 votes. So the competitors in June were forced to face a formidable Giant. The other 3 shouted anti-incumbent because that is all they had! The only person who might have run and beat Heilman is Abbe Land. In fact, I hope Abbe will run again!

    @Woody–the termites are eating your arguments into nothing!

  3. what doesn’t make sense to me is why $435,000 was spent to get Heilman (re-)elected.
    it wasn’t from those who live in rent-stabilized housing, it wasn’t from the west hollywood west neighborhood ass’n residents living in single-family homes, it wasn’t from kings road condo dwellers.
    it was raised and spent in $10,000 and $15,000 and $20,000 increments by folks like the developer of 8899 Beverly.

    get real you guys. Woody McBreairty hits the nail on the head. Heilman got tossed in March ‘cuz we had better candidates, and 30 years is too long no matter how much you like someone.

    In June, Heilman sat back and let his “independent” expenditures committees run the campaign, and it certainly helped him that, as Woody said, none of his opponents had the ‘stature’ of a councilmember.

    “progressive” means “moving forward toward new ideas” – and that includes new blood in our institutions from time to time.

  4. Actually, if Block and Ettman had withdrawn and their supporters voted for Shink, she would have won. However, the most serious problem now stems from the SCOTUS Citizens United decision which has opened the floodgates of unfettered money to any candidate. We are looking at an in-progress presidential campaign which will probably cost in excess of ONE BILLION DOLLARS ! ! Also, as the years have progressed, the national campaigns have become longer and longer and longer contributing to voter fatigue. Now, after a November election, the very next day the pundits will speculate who will be the candidates four years hence. Question: When did JFK officially announce his candidacy for the November 1960 election? Answer: In January of THAT year !! Nuff said…

  5. I would not make this about John Heilman or any other candidate. They all did what they had to do to get elected under the current system of legalized corruption. Do we want our council members bought by out-of-town businesses or elected by residents? Do we want to be a progressive city or not?

  6. Actually, a candidate’s campaign has nothing to do with an I.E. Campaigns have no control over what an ie is doing or spending. These numbers should not be condensed and are incorrect.

  7. The March 2011 election winner results: D’Amico – 2876 Land – 2837 Heilman – 2626
    The March 2015 election winner results: D’Amico – 2309 Meister – 2136 Horvath – 2133
    If this is a mandate for Heilman, then I am the king of outer space. In fact unless the March 3 final vote tallies are in error, I do believe Heilman LOST the election! So clearly the voters did not concur with the claims of Heilman’s indispensability as asserted here. We are all entitled to our own opinions but not to our own set of facts & statistics, hard as we try.
    Rather it is obvious that the voter trend was to phase Heilman out & I reiterate that but for the weak slate of June 2 candidates challenging him, he would be history. In that way Heilman was fortunate that fate dealt him a friendly hand, including the fact that Jeffrey Prang’s vacated seat enabled him to shamelessly betray his own promise that “elections are term limits” & that if he lost he would graciously concede & move on. He did neither & instead snuck back through the rear door of City Hall as the junior Council member. I believe it is a foregone conclusion that if Heilman chooses to run for reelection, he can easily lose again to the right challenger. .

  8. So Woody, where are your ideas and solutions to the complaints you have stated? You’ve apparently been around for a long time, presumably long enough to have met with John Heilman many times to address some of these long held troubling issues but have you ever met with him? If so, could you share the the circumstances and results?

    How would you describe the actions and philosophy of the Wehona group in the way they presented their previous slate for election while trying to smear Abbe Land, Lindsey Horvath and Fran Soloman as a device against Heilman? Do you subscribe to muckraking and hurling insults from the podium? You seem to be the recurring, collective voice refuting the opinions of so many of us blind sheep but where are your facts? Could you please be specific?

  9. The 2015 current election results for the four open seats between the two elections:

    1. Heilman — 2315 votes
    2. D’Amico — 2312
    3. Meister — 2138
    4. Horvath — 2135

    Just sayin.

  10. Cease contributions from those not living or owning a business within the zip code and this nonsense goes away. It’s all money with a stake in the outcome of the election.

  11. If John Heilman is considered “first” in so many ways, why did he come in third in the 2011 election, being beat out big time by newcomer John D’Amico & a fellow incumbent? If Heilman was considered so indispensable, why did he lose the March 3 election, even with 30+ years of experience, against 1 candidate with a couple of years experience & another candidate with none? It’s so obvious that the voters want change & are making it where & when it’s reasonably possible. It’s very hard to make legitimate points of truth against those who respond with twisted & outright propagandized versions of the truth. It is also very telling that some if not many of Heilman’s supporters never fail to call those who are not Heilman supporters “haters”, which is very small minded & would be more appropriately applied to their own attitudes toward those who disagree with them. Saying Heilman’s loss was “slim” or that “it was close” is irrelevant. The fact is that after 30+ years, he lost his seat & he lost because the voters wanted him replaced with someone new & the same thing would have happened on June 2 if we’d had a more viable candidate running against him. The suggestion that Heilman has “the ability” to make changes & “reshape” a situation of non progress & stalemate that he was so instrumental in creating over several decades would be even more laughable if it weren’t so ludicrous. The idea that West Hollywood is sustaining affordable housing to any reasonable degree is also a pipe dream for those living in a parallel universe. The problems of affordable housing, traffic congestion & no parking, among others, that we had when Heilman first took office in 1984, are still the same problems we have today in 2015, only much worse. I remember pre-1984 when those fighting the cityhood movement were saying that West Hollywood was destined to become an enclave for the young & wealthy. I’m sure they are pleased to see their predictions turning into a reality. All the tributes to Heilman as “first” in making West Hollywood a desirable city come from the same people who are “first” in tempering their comments with superficial fluff & meaningless mush. His being in office the longest only makes him “first” in wearing out his welcome to many voters & political observers. Heilman’s supporters & defenders sound more & more like Republicans & they bring to mind Bill Clinton’s comment that the Republicans never let the facts get in the way of their version of the truth.

  12. John Heilman and Lindsey Horvath demonstrate the qualities of excellent city leaders. They would be leaders in whatever endeavor they chose. They demonstrate the qualities of leadership WH can and should attract. This is not to say that folks will agree with every opinion or philosophy but future candidates of integrity, offering positive solutions devoid of small mindedness and social immaturity would be welcome and could be evaluated on an even playing field without all the campaign funding and distracting rhetoric.

  13. I don’t read mailers. I do my own research, decide who I am more in-line with and vote at the polls. Mailers to me are a waste of time, and are promptly tossed into the recycle bin by our mailboxes. I see hundreds of them in there. I think people should run on their record. That is why I voted Heilman. I don’t always agree with him on all issues, but I know that he will champion affordable housing. That is something that he doesn’t waiver from. It is appreciated by many, and it is part of the reason he was elected again. The calamity around this campaign did not start with Heilman. Trust on that.

    1. agree 100%.
      let’s take a look how much millions of dollars spend on crazy things instead on our lives of our people.

  14. Can we see a pie chart of the candidates from the March election with the June election?

    From the final tally of both elections, John Heilman came in first. First in character, vision, experience, leadership and certainly the single most influential founder of West Hollywood.
    Number 1 in votes and with the voters.

    The core values John Heilman established in 1984 are the one’s that have made West Hollywood a premiere destination to live, visit and desirable to all.

  15. 435,000 spent by Heilman.. and the guy above thinks somebody was going to over come that w personal appeal. Wake up.. and with all due respect to NZ above.. he loves John Heilman and then complains about all his policies. There is a problem that this article recognizes with $ and politics but so far the comments are all spin.

  16. Shink and Ettman had sufficient money to compete. They got their case out to voters. The extra (outside uncoordinated) money Heilman got didn’t change the outcome.

  17. I think John won this time due to all the negative campaigning this time around. Whether it was from John’s PAC, or other candidates bashing each other, John ended up winning. Our election turned into a mini-version of national elections and it was ugly. I don’t want another election like that here in WeHo. In fact, we should ban PAC’s here in WeHo. Let’s say Citizens United never was here.

    I also hate all the mailers I get. Many came after I had already voted by mail.

  18. Woody: completely disagree with you. Hellman’s loss in March was very slim. Money well spent in June to elect John Heilman, one of the two current CC members with real substance, ability and scope. The fair valuation would be determined by what does one’s money buy as in value.

    Many folks get that you are forever entrenched and invested in the Hate Heilman dynamic which was largely based on misinformation, hate and retribution and it is evident that you are unable or unwilling to articulate the values and skills which are necessary to bring about change. John Heilman has the expertise to reshape and redirect policies and decisions that no longer fit into the current climate coupled with the wisdom and presence to embrace those thoughtful enough to lay down their past grudges and work with him.

  19. Agree completely with Woody. Also, I hate all the mailers I get. First, they annoy me. Second, they are environmentally unfriendly. Isn’t there a better way?

  20. The candidates may have spent this much money on their respective campaigns, but I don’t think this much money was required either to run or to win. It was mostly easy-come-easy-go money, much of it wasted on excessive mailers & door hangers & yard signs plastered from one end of the city to the other. WeHo is actually a very small community & an even smaller community of voters who decide the elections & they already know how they’re going to vote. The challenge for new candidates is to change minds & to bring new voters to the polls to vote specifically for them, a challenge which they pretty much fail to meet. Heilman & Block had run before & were already familiar entities within the voting community. Shink was on the Planning Commission at the time & Ettman was a Public Facilities Commissioner so they also were familiar to the community, both within the inside political establishment & without. Still they all lost by pretty wide margins & I think the outcomes in both elections were pretty predictable. (The fact that both Shink & Ettman were subsequently removed from those positions does not bode well for them should they choose to run again in the future.) Heilman lost the March 3 election because there were candidates stronger than he was & the people wanted change. Heilman won the June 2 election because the alternate candidates were not strong enough to be convincing, lacked punch in their community presence & there was no one in the June 2 race as there was in the March 3 race, with the strength of either personal appeal or leadership skills to give Heilman a run for his money. With the right candidate, Heilman could easily have lost again on June 2 regardless of how much money he spent or how little the right challenger might have spent. In any case, Heilman won by default & if he chooses to run for reelection, could easily be taken out again by the right candidate, but not by one of the “also rans” from previous elections, campaign money being only one of the factors that helps a candidate win.

  21. I SUPPORT JOHN HEILMAN, HE is A REAL MAN, REAL LEADER with the GOOD and the not so good, NO ONE IS PERFECT…show me one?
    the stuff that is going on in our city is so sad. so much of our money is all going to nothing but B.S. what till you hear how much we spend on Halloween night, gay pride and our X deputies, we are for sure a city of fantasy, not about our real people.
    sad but true. but i do love WEHO, It’s like a movie , action, romance, comedy with bad ending.

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