Campaigning for the WeHo City Council has been sluggish according to some who have followed the oft-contentious elections over the years.
However the campaign is gaining steam as mailboxes in recent days have been flooded with flyers promoting John Heilman, one of two incumbents in the race. Signs backing Heilman also are popping up around the city. Incumbent John Duran also has begun to push signs out. Residents have observed only a few promoting challenger Steve Martin, a number of signs for Michael Cautillo and no signs or flyers to date for the other six challengers in the race.
The once sluggish campaign also has begun to generate verbal and social media slugs (not, so far, any that are physical). That was evident at last night’s city council meeting.
One speaker, who identified himself as Brian Hamilton, stepped up to the podium last night to harshly denounce John Duran and Heilman, the incumbents. Hamilton identified himself as a supporter of challengers Cynthia Blatt and Martin.
“Why are you still here, after your million dollar dalliance, your half million dalliance, your scandalous betrayal of the public trust?” Hamilton said, addressing Duran and referencing the city’s decision to settle for $500,000 a lawsuit filed by Ian Owens, Duran’s former council deputy. In the suit Owens had alleged that he had sex with Duran before he was hired and that Duran made sexual advances afterward, which Duran has denied. ” … In any corporation you would have been tossed out on your tuchus…,” Hamilton said. “But there you sit because you have no scruples.”
Turning to Heilman, Hamilton noted that nine members of the Illoulian family each made a maximum donation of $500 to Heilman’s re-election campaign. Jason Illoulian’s Faring Capital is a real estate developer whose plan to demolish the French Market has generated some controversy. “When I look at you John Heilman, you are the face of corruption and malfeasance to me,” Hamilton said.
Larry Block, owner of the Block Party store and an unsuccessful candidate in the last city council election, also spoke, calling out Mayor Lauren Meister for not having endorsed a candidate. Block reminded her that Councilmember John D’Amico had publicly endorsed the incumbent, a move that led to Allegra Allison, his appointee to the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, resigning in protest. D’Amico’s endorsement of Heilman astonished a number of people, given that D’Amico has been seen as an opponent of what some residents refer to as over development and Heilman is seen by his opponents as a supporter of that. Historically the two have not gotten along.
“Lauren you have a grand opportunity to be the king maker of the city council to move us forward and stop the hateful rhetoric by reaching over, shaking John Heilman’s hand and endorsing him,” Block said, a comment that prompted laughter from those in the audience.
“Your voters deserve to know who best moves your agenda forward that we elected you to, and if John Heilman is the best person to work with, you should endorse him,” Block said. “And if he’s not … endorse somebody because hiding is not the best way to be the mayor when it comes to an election and an agenda.”
Meister has not made an official endorsement but is known as a supporter of Blatt, who is the only candidate to whose campaign she has contributed according to the last campaign documents filed.
Block attributed some of the negativity brewing in the campaign to supporters of Meister who she has named to city boards and commissions.
“In the past few weeks since I endorsed Councilmember Heilman, I’ve gotten screamed at — ‘How can you do that?’ ‘You’re a sell out.’ Another commission member sending out emails saying I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth. Another commissioner who, when asked ‘can we talk?,’ responded ‘I wanted to take you outside and punch you in the face. Do you know what all of these commissioners have in common? They are Lauren Meister appointees. What ever happened to Michelle Obama: ‘When they go low we go high’?”
Blatt has also had her attackers on social media. Amanda Smash Hyde, a friend and supporter of Councilmember Lindsey Horvath, has posted “Splatt Blatt” on her Facebook page.
Blatt took time to call out a new group of supporters at last night’s council meeting. She announced that she has been endorsed by the Los Angeles Sierra Club, an environmental interest group.
Councilmember Lindsey Horvath has endorsed Heilman and she has donated to both the Duran and Heilman re-election campaigns. The West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee is expected to make its endorsement in the next day or so, and the bets are on Duran and Heilman.
EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story said Lindsey Horvath has not endorsed anyone. However she has endorsed John Heilman. The story has been revised to reflect that.