Only 4 of WeHo’s 8 City Council Candidates Can Participate in the Stonewall Dems Forum on Sunday

Image from a promotion of Sunday’s Stonewall Democratic Club forum to endorse West Hollywood City Council candidates

UPDATE, Aug. 7: Lester Aponte, president of the Stonewall Democrats executive board, reached out to WEHOville to say that “… only four candidates have asked for our endorsement and submitted questionnaires as part of that process. Per our bylaws, they are the only candidates who are eligible for our endorsement.  Moreover, the forum is a special membership meeting for the purpose of allowing our members to choose among the candidates who are eligible for our endorsement.  It serves no purpose to include candidates who, through their own lack of diligence, failed to qualify.  I want to make clear that we do not chase down candidates in any race. … Finally, I would point out that running for office is a serious endeavor and being proactive, following procedures and meeting deadlines are important indicators of a person’s competence to hold public office.”

The final list of candidates for the Nov. 3 West Hollywood City Council election won’t be confirmed until tomorrow. But the campaign already is getting heated with several candidates complaining that they aren’t going to be allowed to participate in a virtual forum to be hosted on Sunday by the Stonewall Democratic Club. Members of Stonewall Democrats will vote on who to endorse for the two City Council seats at the end of the forum.

That forum, which will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. via Zoom, will include only four of the eight candidates confirmed thus far. Following the event, members will vote on who to endorse in the upcoming election. The four participants are incumbent City Councilmember John Heilman, a law professor who has been on the Council for 36 years; John Erickson, a Planning Commissioner and former City Council deputy who is chair of Stonewall’s legislative action group and isdirector of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles; Sepi Shyne, a lawyer and a member of the city’s Business License Commission, and Noemi Torres, a real estate agent who is on the city’s Public Facilities Commission.

City Councilmember John Duran, who is running for re-election, has been told he can’t participate in the forum. Candidates Larry Block and Marco Colantonio have been told the same thing. Newly confirmed candidate Christopher McDonald said Stonewall hadn’t reached out to him.

Block, Colantonio, and Duran say they were told that they failed to meet the deadline for registering for the forum. Block, who is a member of Stonewall, initially said he didn’t recall receiving a notice of the forum and the registration deadline. He said he contacted Jane Wishon, Stonewall’s political vice president, to ask to be included but she denied him. Block later said he discovered an email from Wishon in his spam folder. That email states the deadline for registering to be considered for an endorsement is midnight on Aug. 7. It also says the Stonewall’s “endorsement leadership team” may reach out to candidates who they have identified as important and ask them to register.

Duran said he received a notice of the application process, replied that he wanted to be considered and then was told he wouldn’t be because his application was too late. Colantonio said he was never contacted by Stonewall with an invitation to participate.

“This is unfair to the candidates and the voters,” Colantonio said in an email message to Lester Aponte, president of Stonewall’s executive board. “There is nothing democratic about not offering every candidate an opportunity to participate…

“If Heilman, Erickson, Shyne, and Torres believe in a fair election process, they should withdraw and ask for a postponement until the other candidates are invited to participate.”

In a response to Colantonio, Aponte affirmed that Stonewall had not reached out to candidates to ask them to participate in the forum. “The forum includes all of the candidates who requested our endorsement and asked to be included in the forum by the deadline,” he said. Aponte said Stonewall had been promoting the forum for four months.

Duran expressed his disappointment in Stonewall’s decision to not include him and also in how the organization has changed over the years. The Stonewall Democratic Club was established in Los Angeles in 1975 with a mission to advocate for LGBT rights and for progressive and feminist values in the Democratic Party. “Now it’s a shill for the Democratic Party that doesn’t consider LGBT issues anymore,” Duran said. “… Their only use is for a Democrat to say they have the endorsement and ‘pass’ on LGBT rights.”

Stonewall has been criticized by some who see its membership evolving from LGBTQ activists to traditional and heterosexual members of the Democratic Party who see it as a valuable political asset. Stonewall was accused by former member Craig Scott, who is gay, of “pinkwashing,” a term he used to describe giving an LGBTQ endorsement to a moderate and heterosexual Democratic Party candidate so that that candidate could attract the LGBTQ vote. Scott was forced out of Stonewall after posting a comment on his Facebook page using the term “faghag,” which is a slang word used to describe heterosexual women who like to hang out with gay men.

In an op-ed published by WEHOville, Scott said “the endorsement process fails to advance progressive candidates. … All questions posed to candidates are vetted in advance by the political director, Jane Wishon, a straight, white woman who claims to be an ally. If she doesn’t approve the question, it is not asked … . This process silences issues that people of color or transgender members may want to ask. Questions unique to LGBTQ people are few and far between.”

Scott also criticized Stonewall for doing its endorsement interviews behind closed doors, which won’t be the case with Sunday’s Zoom forum. Those who want to watch the forum can do so by registering online. Only those who are registered members of the club will be able to vote on who to endorse when the forum is over. They are asked to join the Zoom meeting at 1:30 p.m., which is when the process of checking their membership credentials will begin.

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Steve Martin
Steve Martin
3 months ago

It seems to me that the Democratic Clubs can’t claim to be the voice of the community when they don’t give the community a chance to be heard. There is no real reason for the clubs to be cramming their interview and endorsement process when the elections are not until November. Neither of them has offered a meaningful platform for local candidates to be heard which used to be the purpose of having local Democratic Clubs. I would remind them that the former German Democratic Republic was not particularly “democratic”; the incorporation of the word “democratic” into your name should… Read more »

Danielle Harris
Danielle Harris
3 months ago

Is this club even relevant anymore? Who do you know who’s a member or attends their meetings today?

They have lost any value and their process is contrived. They do not speak for West Hollywood. And most of their members are not residents either, FYI.

You Can't Handle the Truth
You Can't Handle the Truth
3 months ago

This sucks!
So, the other candidates are being stonewalled by Stonewall! How truly insulting to the general public. It will prove fascinating if anyone OTHER than Erickson or Heilman gets their biased nod.

I for one, could care less about a Stonewall Democratic Club endorsement. It’s all such BS! Shame on them!

WeHoMikey
WeHoMikey
3 months ago

So, why not start a new Democratic Club?

I do see Lester Aponte’s point – that “running for office is a serious endeavor … following procedures and meeting deadlines are important indicators of a person’s competence to hold public office”. Certainly, as the last 3+ years have borne out, certain elected officials in Washington were elected without any of those qualifications. Where has that gotten us??

If you feel Stonewall isn’t relevant, then create something that is. The voters would like to see candidates do something constructive.

Manny
Manny
3 months ago
Reply to  WeHoMikey

@”WehoMikey”…….I would phrase it this way:

Following through and including all candidates are important indicators of an LGBTQ political club’s competence in serving their members and the voting public at large.

Jerome Cleary
Jerome Cleary
3 months ago
Reply to  WeHoMikey

I think you may be missing the point since in the past years ago Stonewall included everyone and reached out to every candidate and it was fair and democratic in the process. Now it’s done is a scammy way that smacks of inappropriateness and unprofessionalism. In the article it even mentions the president contradicting how they do their process which shows that it’s now done underhandedly. Thus, how can we be eligible if the deadline for candidates being verified was set by the City of West Hollywood to be the final deadline of Friday August 7th at 5pm? Because Stonewall… Read more »

Jerome Cleary
Jerome Cleary
3 months ago

I just read this article and I went to Facebook and looked up Lester Aponte’s info on his Facebook page and just called him and he accused me of only calling him cause John Duran put me up to it? Which I told him was bizarre because one this was not true and two: I have been included and invited by Stonewall when I ran in 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2005. I also told Lester that I was only told this afternoon that I was a candidate by phone by the city clerk’s office. And I told Lester that it… Read more »

Larry Block
3 months ago

Hello, I was looking forward to this endorsement meeting. I’ve been a member of Stonewall for a few years. Mu annual dues were due August 15th, and I’ve been in touch with membership on multiple occasions. During the GLAR (Greater Los Angeles Association of Realtors) endorsement meetings, it was clear the other candidates do not even understand commercial triple net leases and the effects of certain props on small business and small business owners. I was glad to beat Duran and Heilman and Erickson and Shyne to get their endorsement. But the disparity of wealth issues of that are supposed… Read more »

Sayonara
Sayonara
3 months ago
Reply to  Larry Block

Sounds like Stonewall Dems got some LA Pride issues going on.

Richard K.
Richard K.
3 months ago
Reply to  Larry Block

This exclusion of important and viable candidates in Stonewall’s forum does not pass the sniff test. Especially during these precarious times of the pandemic; every effort should have been made to insure transparency and effective communication in reaching out to the candidates. This is not a good look for the Stonewall Democratic Club.

Jim Nasium
Jim Nasium
3 months ago

PREDICTION: The Stonewall Democratic Club Endorsement goes to:

(Drumroll)

John Erickson
Chair, Legislative Action Committee, Stonewall Democratic Club.

Jim Nasium
Jim Nasium
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim Nasium

Nailed it!

BrownEyedBoy
BrownEyedBoy
3 months ago

The gears of the Political Machine are turning to ensure that West Hollywood continues to have the best City Council money can buy!

This is a shameless, power-grab by Stonewall Dems who failed to conduct appropriate outreach. They want to call the election folks.

carleton cronin
3 months ago

A sidebar in the “Democracy in action” process. Illustrates a distinct problem in the day of COVID: How to reach the voters with limited resources. The city should make its TV platform available for debates, especially one on one debates, not the silly cluster ——-s we usually see -or hear.

TomSmart
TomSmart
3 months ago

Anyone who knows local politics is very aware that this is a sham organization.

Marco Colantonio
3 months ago

I would prefer not to have the Stonewall Democrats endorsement but would have appreciated the opportunity for a fair debate vs. this rigged event. Ed Buck, the infamous political donor, awaiting trial on murder charges and operating a drug den, was an influential member of the Stonewall Dems until just a few years ago. When I first published the story in 2017 of 27-year old Gemmel Moore’s death from a meth overdose in Buck’s WeHo apartment, Buck was still on the Stonewall Dems’ Steering Committee. To this day, Buck’s Facebook features dozens of photos of him celebrating with John Heilman… Read more »

Alex Mohajer
Alex Mohajer
3 months ago

The entire purpose of this event is to earn the endorsement of the organization. So publicly complaining that you can’t compete for the endorsement of an organization that you have no interest in receiving an endorsement from seems a little self-defeating.

Manny
Manny
3 months ago

Stonewall Democratic Club is irrelevant.

To not reach out and make every effort to communicate with candidates like John Duran, an important and accomplished Gay Activist for 30 years and to Larry Block, an LGBTQ job creator and founder of the City of West Hollywood LGBTQ flag, is inexcusable, small minded or worse.

I stopped supporting this Club a couple of years ago because of some other stupid thing they did. I encourage others to do the same and for the four candidates to show they have some integrity and drop out of this irrelevant forum.