UPDATE: Three Have Announced, And Now Seven Are Said to Be Exploring a Race for West Hollywood City Council in 2020

UPDATE: Larry Block, the chair of the city’s Public Facilities Commission and the owner of the Block Party apparel store, has informed WEHOville that the idea of running for City Council in 2020 is “circling” in his mind. That would make him one of seven people considering a run for the two Council seats.

West Hollywood’s Nov. 3, 2020, City Council election is a little more than 13 and a half months away, but incumbents John Duran and John Heilman already have been stepping up their interactions with voters and influentials, and seven likely challengers are doing the same. As of now, only three candidates have publicly stated they are in the run, with the others saying they are still assessing that.

Duran, in an evident effort to patch up relationships with community leaders and those who speak out often at City Council, is arranging lunches with those who have been vocal about his alleged sexual misconduct with young members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles. Duran chaired the GMCLA board until the scandal reached a peak with coverage by the Los Angeles Times and national and world media in February.

One of those critics was Marco Colantonio, who wrote an op-ed published by WEHOville in February that described Duran’s defense of his behavior as “the epitome of narcissism.” However, Colantonio published a post on Facebook this weekend stating that he had had lunch with Duran and “I walked away realizing the many reasons I have loved and admired this guy for more than a decade.” Among those Duran has invited to lunch is Larry Block, a member of the city’s Public Facilities Commission who has been active in civic issues and a critic of Duran’s behavior.

Heilman has been on the City Council since the city’s incorporation in 1984, except for a brief three months after he lost his campaign in March 2015 for re-election. He retook his Council seat in June after a special election to fill a seat left by Jeffrey Prang, who was elected Los Angeles County Assessor. One sign that Heilman will be running for re-election in 2020 is that he has been showing up at more community events, such as the recent public safety preparedness community meeting at Plummer Park where he walked around the room, greeting others. He is a strong supporter of John Erickson, his 32-year-old appointee to the city’s Planning Commission, who also is a likely Council candidate.

Sepi Shyne, a lawyer and member of the city’s Business License Commission, is likely to be running again. She came within 139 votes of defeating incumbent John D’Amico in the March 2019 election. Shyne, who is a lesbian, has called out her ancestry as an immigrant whose parents fled Iran. She has been a regular face at City Council meetings and has been reaching out to community members to discuss a possible run for a seat in the 2020 election. In the March election, she got major support from Unite Here Local 11, the hotel and restaurant workers union, whose political action committee spent $16,644 to support Shyne. She is expected to focus on issues involving renters, a group that constitutes 78% of the city’s population but has little clout.

Erickson, Heilman’s Planning Commission appointee and a close associate with Councilmember Lindsey Horvath, is still considering whether he will run for office, with most political insiders assuming he will. Erickson is the chair of the Hollywood chapter of the National Organization for Women and is director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles. A concern voiced by Erickson’s supporters is whether he will be able to defeat Duran without putting Heilman’s re-election at risk.

Erickson has been raising his public profile. For example, he staged the recent reading of the Mueller Report at the City Council Chambers, which attracted a very small audience but got a lot of publicity. Erickson also has been speaking out on various issues at Council meetings. At one meeting he advocated on behalf of the Hollywood Chapter of the National Organization for Women that the city grant recreational cannabis sales licenses to the four existing cannabis dispensaries, who failed to qualify for such licenses in the recent application process. Those cannabis businesses are expected to be major donors in the 2020 City Council election and also had contributed in the March 2019 election. Erickson said that Hollywood NOW supported the existing dispensaries because they had embraced union representation of their employees, which state law actually requires of all recipients of cannabis licenses.

Another possible candidate is Steve Martin, who served two terms on the Council until losing his re-election race in 2003 to Abbe Land.  Martin, an author of the city’s successful term limits ballot initiative, also lost a 2017 campaign. A lawyer, Martin is a resident of the city’s Eastside and is likely to garner support from some of its residents, who have expressed their concern about what they see as an increase in crime and issues involving homelessness and drug addicts.

Martin also might get support from Unite Here Local 11, which he joined in opposing the City Council’s decision to permit construction of the Arts Club on Sunset Boulevard. The union also is considering trying to put on the ballot a moratorium on construction of new hotels. The Arts Club was also opposed by Heilman and was supported by Duran. Martin has voiced support in the past for Sepi Shyne, noting that she called out the gender imbalance on the city’s boards and commissions, which were dominated by men. Martin has been vocal in his criticism of Duran for his alleged sexual misconduct.

Marquita Thomas, executive director of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and an unsuccessful candidate in the March 2019 election, is widely expected to run again. Thomas, a former member of the city’s Gay and Lesbian Advisory Board and now a member of the Human Services Commission, also is a former member of the board of directors of Christopher Street West, producer of the annual L.A. Pride event, and was a close ally of its then director, Chris Classen, and board member Craig Bowers in 2016. That was the year when Classen and Bowers recast the annual Pride event as a music festival and attempted to reduce transgender programming, which some say was why it lost $395,000.  Thomas’s major backers in the March 2019 included members of the Illoulian family in Beverly Hills. Jason Illoulian’s Faring is a major developer in West Hollywood, with local projects such as the Robertson Lane hotel and shopping plaza, the French Market office and restaurant building and the Bond Hotel and Residences.

One person who has confirmed that she will run is Noemi Torres, a real estate agent. Torres was born and raised in Guadalajara, Mexico.  At 13 years of age, she immigrated to Seattle, Wash., with her mother, brother, and sister. Torres has been involved in a number of community organizations, volunteering with Project Angel Food, Downtown Women’s Center, RED EYE, and Skid Row Carnival of Love. She was named woman of the year in 2017 by Congressman Adam Schiff.  Torres in 2014 was named to the city’s Women’s Advisory Board and in 2017 Councilmember Lindsey Horvath appointed her to the Public Facilities Commission.

The others who have confirmed they will run are Eric Jon Schmidt and Jack Cline, a registered nurse who lives with Schmidt. Schmidt came in last among 11 candidates in the March City Council election, with 167 votes.  Cline ran slightly ahead, with 243 votes.

Schmidt’s candidacy got a lot of attention after WEHOville reported his presence on DudesNude.com, a gay porn site, where he had posted photos and videos of him having sex with other men. Schmidt confirmed his candidacy in a recent email to WEHOville and said that Jack Cline, who also dresses in drag and is known as Jackie OMG.  “Jack will run as ‘Jackie O’ and be in drag at every even,” Schmidt said. “I have someone checking out to see if he can use an alias on the ballot.”

“We need new blood on (the) City Council, I don’t think Jackie O and I will win, but we hope to inspire others to get involved.”


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George
Guest
George

John Duran needs to take care and focus on his weakened health which is tenuous at best. The same for Heilman They need new people with fresh idea that are not in for the developers who are destroying the charm WeHo was once known for. Cityhood has been chipping away and has ruined at the charming aspects of WeHo. That’s been going on for year’s now due to corrupt council members . VERY sad!!!!!

Ham
Guest
Ham

hopefully one can be a normal person.

Kerrigan
Guest
Kerrigan

If Larry runs, I will be voting for him!

kab1200
Guest
kab1200

Unite Here is basically evil, as far as I can see. Also, I will never vote for Martin, as he would not allow City Hall to be built in Weho Park, which would have made it our true civic center.

Steve Martin
Guest
Steve Martin

You have an excellent memory. That was back in 1989 and I am proud to have stopped the silly vanity project that would have destroyed WeHo Park and our only municipal pool. You can build a City Hall anywhere but a park is hard to replace. But thanks for reminding folks about how a grassroots effort stopped John Heilman from destroying the park just to put up a fancy City Hall.

Vigilant
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Vigilant

Some of these folks are already circling the drain even before the race has begun. In this era that is diminished by lack of integrity on a local and national scale it would be good to give serious consideration to those that have realistic, verifiable resumes coupled with the desire and proven expertise to be effective in West Hollywood leadership. One incumbent and one candidate that almost succeeded last time around come to mind. Some of the others appear to have endless baggage, some are more interested in meaningless, degrading sideshows that overpower their occasional ideas. and one who could… Read more »

Observer
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Observer

Beware!. When Heilman is finally going to be out of office, I’m almost certain that Abbe Land will run for his seat. Meaning, Heilman, by his close association with Land will not have actually left.

Robert Switzer
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Robert Switzer

If Schmidt believes that Jackie OMG and he can’t win yet truly want new blood on the Council, then they shouldn’t run. If they run, it will only serve to dilute the opposition vote to the incumbents and help re-elect the very people they wish to see off the Council.

Eric Jon Schmidt
Guest

We plan on running, however if viable Candidates step up we will back down for the good of the Community, We love this town. We only want what is best for it’s future. The current situation is not

Alison
Guest
Alison

There are already viable candidates, Sepi Shyne for one. You and Jack prevented her from winning last time. Step away now. Give her and other REAL candidates that have a chance the opportunity.

Eric Jon Schmidt
Guest

We believe D’amico Is more qualified to protect the gay community than Shyne.

Also, I have been to many Commission and Board meetings and I don’t believe serving on them qualifies a person to be a City Council Member.

jeff
Guest
jeff

d’amico said weho was a “business” at the state of the city, did he not? protecting the gay community will never come before dollars in this town unless smart newcomers change the culture in power. shyne looks to be the only one that stands out and holds promise. many of us are sick of the “weho is a sex-based city” peter-pan vomit. maturity and humility are valued by sane people, and both qualities are very much lacking in some of the current councilmembers and wannabes merely seeking attention. these types never step aside for the greater good. their egos won’t… Read more »

Eric Jon Schmidt
Guest

I am a huge supporter of Women’s rights and advancement. I have been my whole life. But, Please don’t vote for someone just because of his/her gender. I sat next to Ms. Shyne during the last debate. She is a pleasant person, but she has not gone into depth about her positions. No one has asked her the really important questions

Alison
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Alison

I totally agree with this. The two of them have absolutely no chance of winning. There are already viable candidates.

Mike Dolan
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Mike Dolan

Marquita Thomas was a member of the LGAB. She was reappointed to the Human Services Commission where she currently serves.

Jonathan H. Dowling
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Jonathan H. Dowling

I really wish West Hollywood would adopt a runoff system for our elections. Having 10 people vying for two seats results in the dilution of votes for any meaningful opposition candidates having a chance of getting elected. There should be two rounds of voting to cull the field of candidates down to the top four. Then those four should run for the two open seats. Nobody should be elected with 20 something percent of the vote!

Marco Colantonio
Guest
Marco Colantonio

Just a slight clarification; John Duran did not reach out to me for lunch, it was me who did the reaching. John and I are friends and I wanted to mend a fence. I disagreed with him recently and penned an op-ed a few months ago in which I made my dissent blatantly clear. In spite of this, Duran agreed to have lunch and our conversation was candid and honest. We both listened, understood and heard each other. It was a great lunch and a friendship renewed. Duran often takes a lot of hits in these forums, but I choose… Read more »

Monica Siegel
Guest
Monica Siegel

I’m with you Marco. Stalin did a lot of good for Russia, and Mao for China, and all people in the US focus on is the bad stuff! And people don’t recognize what a great contributor to Jewish charities that Bernie Madoff was! Also, so what if Dave Smith took advantage of Asian women trapped in illegal massage parlors. He was a great guy to us white folk! So there!

Very Concerned Citizen
Guest
Very Concerned Citizen

Thank you Monica Siegel. A true voice of reason.
West Hollywood residents, be prepared for the incumbents to waltz right back in with so many candidates splitting the votes. It is what ALWAYS happens. Until those running, who clearly have no chance of winning get themselves out of the race it will be déjà vu all over again.

Michael Grace
Guest
Michael Grace

It’s time for West Hollywood to start vetting all political candidates and commissioners. Since the revelation that Chris Winter, a convicted felon, was appointed by John Duran to a commission dealing with developers. The City immediately dismissed any idea that Winter had taken bribes. How do they know? Did they investigate? They certainly never vetted him. Then on WEHO, there have been several other comments of convicted felons serving on commissions previously. As for Duran, I guess its quite “normal” to have over a $100,000 in tax liens, six to be exact, with extended due dates into 2025 and hold… Read more »

Larry Block
Guest
Larry Block

The Union’s influence on our local elections and economy are not healthy for the city. Back in the 1900’s unions were important to fight for workers rights and collective bargaining on wages. West Hollywood already provides safeguards for workers and human rights and also a higher than most minimum wage ordinance. If our cannabis, hotels and restaurants become unionized then all the best jobs will go to residents outside of West Hollywood. Look at city hall, over 90% of the staff are not local residents. People complain about developers who invest in our community but what about unions who just… Read more »

L. Helmsley
Guest
L. Helmsley

No one will protect worker’s rights except unions.
It’s a pipe dream to think those who work cleaning hotel rooms, busing tables and washing dishes will be protected by their employers.
The need for unions in this current environment is greater now than ever.

Bill McMahon
Guest
Bill McMahon

I was wondering about the diversity of West Hollywood and the concern that diversity is not part of West Hollywood’s past or future. What about this issue, the issue of tipping in the United States. WOW, try to stop being racist by stopping tips, THEY WANT YOU TO BE RACIST, TIP, ITS OK!! So Trump tips some of his workers, so he is racist. Case closed. BUT……….why does West Hollywood follow what Trump does? SO, everyone who tips is really racist, and by tipping, everyone continues the racist tradition of tipping in the US. SO, stop tipping and stop allowing… Read more »