Candidate endorsements. For some voters, they can make a big difference in how they perceive a candidate. For other voters, endorsements have no influence.
Whichever way you perceive them, endorsements are a big part of an election campaign. Candidates spend a lot of time collecting endorsements. For a new candidate, an endorsement can give his or her campaign a sense of legitimacy. For an incumbent candidate, the endorsement adds an assurance they are still doing a good job. Some candidates, particularly those with greater political aspirations, seek endorsements from influential county and state politicians and political organizations. Others focus on getting endorsements from local residents.
Two seats on the West Hollywood City Council are up for grabs in the Nov. 3 election. The two incumbents, John Heilman and John Duran, are both seeking another four years in office, but nine people are challenging them for those seats.
Duran has a total of 61 endorsements (59 individuals and two organizations) listed on his campaign website, indicating he still has lots of support despite several scandals associated with him.
Heilman currently lists 42 endorsements on his campaign website (39 individuals, three organizations), but that is only a partial list. A number of people who have endorsed him are not yet listed on the website. No word on when the full list will be up on Heilman’s website.
Among the challengers, John Erickson lists a total of 118 endorsements (102 individuals, 16 organizations) on his campaign website. Meanwhile, Larry Block has some 107 endorsements listed (106 individuals, one organization).
Challenger Sepi Shyne has 80 endorsements (62 individuals, 18 organizations) listed on her campaign website. Challenger Marco Colantonio has seven endorsements listed and challenger Noemi Torres has two.
None of the other challengers – Jerome Cleary, Tom Demille, Christopher MacDonald and Mark Farhad Yusupov – has any endorsements that WEHOville could find.
Gathering these endorsements takes time, but also indicates the candidates are serious about winning. Block said he started contacting residents about endorsing him in May, right after he made up his mind to run for City Council.
“My campaign is a resident-centric campaign, not financed by developers or unions,” Block said, noting that all of those who have endorsed him are West Hollywood residents. “Getting those endorsements was especially important since my campaign is about keeping West Hollywood local and independent.”
Erickson started contacting people in December 2019 about running for office and began seeking their official endorsements in March of this year.
“I chatted with a lot of community members before launching my campaign to see if they would support me,” said Erickson. “Having a broad coalition of support only serves to make me a better candidate.”
Who’s Endorsing Who
The endorsements posted on the candidates’ websites and social media accounts are quite revealing. Some candidates have long lists of local residents supporting them. Others are calling out support from politicians and organizations outside West Hollywood. The incumbent candidates are endorsed by the people they have appointed to city boards and commissions, plus lots of other people too.
Of the three City Council members who aren’t up for election this year, only Mayor Lindsey Horvath has endorsed any candidates, offering her support for Heilman and Erickson. Former City Councilmember Abbe Land also has endorsed Heilman and Erickson, while former City Councilmember Jeff Prang, now the Los Angeles County Assessor, has endorsed Heilman.
Political observers see Horvath, Heilman, Erickson, and Land as closely aligned political allies who share similar views on most major issues in the city. Erickson served as council deputy to Land and later to Heilman; their tutorage helped shaped many of his political views. Some residents worry that if Erickson is elected, he will be part of a majority voting block with Horvath and Heilman, something that could mean opposing ideas would be sidelined.
As for the other two councilmembers, John D’Amico has yet to endorse anyone, but likely will do so closer to election day. “I haven’t fully decided,” D’Amico told WEHOville. “For now, I’m watching how the race is developing.”
Councilmember Lauren Meister also has not yet endorsed anyone and won’t say if she eventually will.
“Candidates are just beginning to get out their stories, their experience, their accomplishments, their positions on issues,” Meister told WEHOville. “Voters should be focused on what candidates have to say, not endorsements. If candidates are on board or commissions, I’d recommend looking at their votes. Same with the incumbents. Meanwhile, I am focusing on the city and how WeHo makes a comeback with COVID still a reality.”
Endorsements from Elected Officials Elsewhere
Some other elected officials have given their thumbs up to various candidates. State Assembly member Richard Bloom, who represents WeHo in Sacramento, has endorsed Heilman and Duran. Meanwhile, his political operative Josh Kurpies, who lives in West Hollywood and sits on the city’s Rent Stabilization Commission, has endorsed Duran and Erickson.
However, State Senator Ben Allen, who represents WeHo in Sacramento, has endorsed Heilman.
Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu, whose district borders West Hollywood, supports Heilman and Erickson. Meanwhile, Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz (a former WeHo City Council member), whose district also borders West Hollywood, has not endorsed anyone.
Backing Duran, Despite the Controversy
Former L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky gave his support to Duran and Heilman. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa endorsed Duran as did former California State Assembly Speaker John Perez and former Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver.
The endorsements of Duran by Bloom, Yaroslavsky, Villaraigosa, Perez and other prominent political figures are intriguing given the allegations in 2015 and 2019 of Duran’s sexually inappropriate behavior with young gay men, allegations that have garnered coverage by media across the country and in Europe and led to his fellow City Council members passing a resolution to censure him.
Duran’s former City Council deputy, Ian Owens, who Duran hired after meeting him on the Grindr gay sex app and having sex with him, sued the city and Duran, alleging sexually inappropriate behavior by his boss. The city paid Owens $500,000 to settle that lawsuit. There were later allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior by Duran from young members of the Gay Men’s Chorus, which led to Duran stepping down from the board of directors that he had chaired for years. There also were comments he made about a young Asian man that were deemed racist by gay Asian-Americans, and statements by Duran on a radio interview comparing his sex life to those of his fellow Council members.
The Stonewall Democrats and API Equality-LA, an Asian and Pacific Islander LGBTQ community organization, called on Duran to resign from the Council. In an editorial, the Los Angeles Times also condemned Duran for his behavior, saying his excuses for his sexual behavior were similar to excuses from Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump. Several prominent young gay men like Estevan Montemayor, the then board chair of Christopher Street West, which puts on LA Pride each year, and Robert Oliver, then a member of the city’s Public Safety Commission, condemned Duran’s behavior in what some called a gay “MeToo” movement.
However, prominent LGBT leaders have continued to embrace Duran. On his Channel Q online radio program, he has hosted Lorri Jean, the CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center; Richard Ayoub, CEO of Project Angel Food; Rabbi Denise Eger of Congregation Kol Ami; Lucia Chappelle and Keith Mozingo of the Metropolitan Community Churches, and Chris Bowen, a member of the Stonewall Young Democrats. He also has gotten endorsements from four members of the city’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board — Jason Frazier, Robert Gamboa, Lucas John Junkin, and James “Duke” Mason. Similarly, resident Lee Walkup, who sings with the Gay Men’s Chorus, also gave his endorsement to Duran.
Duran’s list of endorsements includes several owners of businesses in the Boystown gay entertainment district, including Micky’s owner Michael Niemeyer, Revolver owner Chris Miller and Yogurt Stop co-owners Marta Knittel and Shoshana Joseph. Also, Whisky a Go Go owner Mikeal Maglieri endorsed Duran. Thus, there is still plenty of support for Duran within the community, despite his past transgressions.
Interestingly, Duran is the only candidate to receive an endorsement from any of the cannabis businesses in town. As much influence as those cannabis shops hope to carry, one would have expected they would have been heavily involved in this election, but apparently not. Only Jason Beck, the longtime owner of Alternative Herbal Health Services (AHHS), gave an endorsement and he gave it to Duran.
Political Group Endorsements
Some of the most prestigious endorsements for candidates come from the various political groups in the area. The West Hollywood/Beverly Hills Democratic Club has not yet endorsed anyone for the City Council race. WeHo Dems is scheduled to meet on Sept. 16 to make that decision.
However, the LGBTQ-oriented Stonewall Democratic Club held its endorsement meeting in early August and gave out just one nod for the West Hollywood race – to John Erickson, who notably used to serve as chair of Stonewall’s Legislative Action Committee.
While WeHo Dems and Stonewall Dems are the two most influential as far as West Hollywood city politics go, various other Democratic clubs with no obvious connections to West Hollywood have made endorsements in the race.
Stonewall Young Democrats, whose members are young politically active LGBTQ people, has endorsed Erickson and Sepi Shyne.
Shyne and Erickson have both picked up endorsements from HONOR PAC, the Latinx LGBTQ political action committee, as well as the Miracle Mile Democratic Club and Westside Young Democrats, among others.
Shyne, who is Iranian, also received an endorsement from the National Iranian American Council.
Challenger Noemi Torres received an endorsement from the Pilipino American Los Angeles Democrats.
Labor Union Supporters
The West Hollywood Municipal Employees (WeHoME), the union for West Hollywood City Hall employees, has also weighed in. While very few of its members live in West Hollywood, they will be working with whomever is elected.
Even though only two seats are up for election, WeHoME has endorsed three candidates – Duran, Heilman and Erickson. While he was a City Hall employee Erickson served as president of WeHoME for several years.
Meanwhile, the union for sheriff’s deputies, the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS), has given its thumbs up to Duran, who has been a strong supporter of the Sheriff’s Department during a time marked by protests over police brutality and the criticism of Sheriff Alex Villanueva for his management of the department.
The hospitality workers union, UNITE Here Local 11, has given its support to challengers Shyne and Erickson. Likewise, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO endorsed both Shyne and Erickson.
The Greater Los Angeles Association of Realtors gave its thumbs up to Block and Noemi Torres. Torres is a real estate agent and Block has a real estate license.
City Board and Commission Member Endorsements
The bulk of the endorsements each candidate has comes from the people sitting on the city’s various boards and commissions. These people typically endorse the Council members who have appointed them. Because they are involved with the running of the city, so they tend to keep up with city politics and are aware of the issues. Thus, their endorsements carry some weight.
Erickson, who currently serves on the city’s Planning Commission, received endorsements from three of his fellow Planning Commission members – Stacey Jones, Adam Bass and Rogerio Carvalheiro. He also got the support of former Planning Commissioner David Aghaei (who Erickson replaced as Heilman’s appointee when Aghaei moved out of the city).
Shyne, who currently serves on the city’s Business License Commission, received endorsements from three of her fellow Business License Commission members, Robert Lo, Kimberly Copeland and Robert Kalonian, as well as former Commissioner Michael King.
Larry Block, who serves on the city’s Public Facilities Commission, received thumbs up from two of his fellow Public Facilities commissioners, Tai Sunnanon and Richard Karliss, as well as former Public Facilities Commission members Manny Rodriguez, Mike Dolan and Donna Saur (who Block replaced as D’Amico’s appointee to the commission).
Block’s list of endorsements also contains a large number of West Hollywood residents, who may not be on a board or commission, but still keep up with city politics.
Candidate Jerome Cleary is among the people who appear on Block’s list of endorsements. When questioned about this endorsement, Cleary explained to WEHOville that he endorsed Block prior to making the decision to run for City Council himself.
Block also received an endorsement from resident Cynthia Blatt, who ran for City Council in 2017. At one point, those two were bitter enemies but appear to have made up since that time. When questioned, Blatt explained to WEHOville that Block has stepped up during the pandemic, notably giving out masks to residents early in the pandemic when masks were hard to find. “He’s the one who’s taken action since COVID-19 hit,” said Blatt. “He’s the one whose words are backed up by his actions.”
Here’s a List of Those Making Endorsements
The pages that follow list each of the candidates who have posted endorsements they have received on their campaign websites or Facebook pages. The various categorizations and identifications are copied from each candidate’s website (thus some people may be identified differently on two candidates’ listings). Page 2 lists those endorsing John Heilman. Page 3 lists those endorsing John Duran. Page 4 lists those endorsing John Erickson. Page 5 lists those endorsing Larry Block. Page 6 lists those endorsing Sepi Shyne. Page 7 lists those endorsing Marco Colantonio. And Page 8 lists those endorsing Noemi Torres.