Despite the fact that the incumbents won reelection, the challengers in Tuesday’s vote for the West Hollywood City Council report they have no regrets about running and consider it an overall positive experience.
“I feel energized and encouraged,” said Cynthia Blatt, who had an impressive showing for someone running for the first time, tying with Steve Martin for third place. “I have met people from all over the city, from every corner, and it has been the most extraordinary experience. I have had an incredible outpouring of support. So many people have reached out to me during the election and today [once the results were in]. How could I feel anything but energized after this outpouring of support? . . . I feel, win or lose, this was the best thing I ever did.”
First time challenger Amanda Goodwin is similarly enthused.
“I am so happy that I did it,” Goodwin told WEHOville. “I feel really good about the experience. I’ve met some wonderful people and discussed issues important to the city. It was amazing . . . Mostly, it has solidified my commitment to solving homeless issues.”
“I too had an amazing experience,” said candidate Reed Stillwell. “It has been awesome getting to know my community better (and Larry Block) as well as the other candidates. I feel I have made some life friends in this campaign with like-minded goals. My hat is off to the incumbents and I also look forward to supporting them and celebrate their win. This has been a campaign of forward momentum and collective support. We all won.”
Challenger Nate Clark also reported a positive experience.
“I am really thrilled by the amount of support I got from people who didn’t even know me two months ago,” Clark said. “I loved the experience. I want to thank the entire city of West Hollywood for giving me this opportunity.”
Joel Quaresimo echoed what the others said.
“I enjoyed every single minute of it,” Quaresimo said. “Having people come up on the streets and say, ‘I know you, I’m voting for you,’ that meant so much. I didn’t expect to win, but I had a great time.”
For Steve Martin, who served on the City Council from 1994 to 2003, running for a seat is old hat. He’s tried three other times to get back on the council (2007, 2011 and 2013) and lost. So he knows the ropes, but still called it “great experience.”
“I had fun,” Martin told WEHOville. “I have to say it was a gratifying experience. I appreciate all the effort of my friends and supporters. I enjoyed the campaigning, enjoyed the people. I thought we had a good campaign.”
Don’t look for these challengers to disappear now that the election is over. Most say they’re going stay active in the city.
“You’re not getting rid of me. I’m absolutely sticking around,” reported Carla Romo, the only millennial in the 10-person race for the two City Council seats. “I’m proud of myself for putting myself out there and being a new voice in the community. Millennials make up a large percentage of the city and our voice needs to be heard . . . change happens by not necessarily winning. If you want to create change, you have to do it. Change happens when you lose.”
Blatt also reports she will remain visible.
“The result of this election proved to me that I am not alone,” Blatt said. “I’ve never thought of being political before, but the results emboldened me. I’m not going anywhere. Our voices are going to rise.”
Goodwin also promises she’ll run again.
“I’m glad it’s over, but I’m not bruised,” Goodwin said. “I learned a lot and know what to do next time.”
Martin, however, reported this may have been the last time he runs.
“I’ll still be around, commenting at City Council and talking about the issues. I’m not going away, but I’m not making any plans to run for office again,” Martin said. “I’m getting old. There are too many stairs in West Hollywood.”
Many friendships were forged in the campaign.
“What I loved most about this campaign was meeting [fellow challengers] Nate [Clark], Reed [Stillwell] and Carla [Romo],” said Amanda Goodwin. “I’ve made some really good friends in them.”
Nate Clark and Carla Romo also spoke highly of their newly formed friendships with fellow candidates, as did Joel Quaresimo.
“For most part, we [the challengers] have become great friends,” Quaresimo said.
Although Steve Martin and Cynthia Blatt ran separate campaigns, many people thought they were running as a slate because they appeared at events together and voiced similar opinions about issues, especially development in the city.
“Hats off to Steve [Martin],” Blatt said. “He is so smart. He has so much courage to do this. I’m proud to be able to call him friend.”
Martin said he also admires Blatt and now considers her a friend. However, he was concerned about degrading comments made about her because she is a woman.
“Was really surprised that level of misogyny leveled at Cynthia,” Martin said. “There were a lot of comments from gay men that Cynthia could do no right. They seemed to be holding her to a standard they weren’t holding the two incumbents.”
While it may have been a good experience, there were concerns about the amount of money that incumbents John Heilman and John Duran spent to get reelected. The most recent campaign finance reports show that Duran raised $132,000 while Heilman raised $99,000. Additionally, the independent expenditure committee Standing Up for West Hollywood Supporting Heilman and Duran for City Council 2017 raised $120,000 to support the two incumbents.
“I didn’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars from developers [like the incumbents did]. That hurt my campaign,” Blatt said. “But I did have this great support and the best volunteers.”
“With this election, I think we’ve institutionalized the role of big money in West Hollywood elections,” Martin said. “I’m afraid in the coming years, we’re just going to see more of this and that may lead to trepidation in people running.”
Challenger Michael Cautillo did not respond to interview requests by publication time.