Heilman Wins WeHo Council Race with 47 Percent of Vote

John Heilman won re-election to the West Hollywood City Council in a race that devolved into one of the most acrimonious in the city’s recent history.

John Heilman
John Heilman

According to City Clerk Yvonne Quarker, as of 10 p.m. tonight Heilman had 2,026 (47 percent) of the votes cast in the special election to fill the Council seat vacated by Jeffrey Prang, who was elected L.A. County Assessor last year. Heilman’s nearest competitor, Heidi Shink, got 1,185 votes (28 percent). Larry Block got 637 votes (15 percent), and Cole Ettman got 385 votes (nine percent of the total). Quarker said roughly 600 votes — mail in ballots and ballots cast at the wrong precincts whose signatures must be verified — remain to be counted. A final total will be announced on Monday afternoon. Still, Heilman’s margin assures he will remain the winner.

Heilman’s victory returns him to the Council where he served for 30 years, beginning with the city’s founding in 1984. Heilman left the Council briefly when he lost in the March 3 general election that saw newcomers Lindsey Horvath and Lauren Meister join the Council. Re-elected in that race was John D’Amico, who has had a fraught relationship with Heilman since D’Amico was first elected to the Council in 2011.

With Heilman’s election, the Council will have a three/two split on many significant issues that likely will include approval of new residential and commercial development and changes to the city’s parking policies. D’Amico endorsed Lauren Meister in her election campaign and also endorsed Heidi Shink, both of whom have complained that the city is too densely developed. Meister, with D’Amico’s support, has led an effort to roll back enforcement hours for parking meters in business areas, a move that city staffers, the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and a prominent local residents association have said will make parking more difficult in this densely populated city. Councilmembers John Duran and Lindsey Horvath have opposed Meister’s efforts to change the city’s parking meter rules, which Heilman supported when they were enacted in 2013.

Heilman also is a strong supporter of the city’s requirement that at least 20 percent of new housing developments of 10 or more units be set aside for low- and moderate-income people. A number of neighborhood activists have campaigned against Heilman on that matter, with some arguing that the city should not accomodate more low- and moderate-income people. D’Amico has advocated that developers instead by required to give money to the city that it can use to build separate housing for low-income people, an approach that is criticized by some as an effort to isolate them from the more affluent.

Another major issue likely to be addressed by Heilman’s election is the City Council deputy system, in which each Council member has a highly paid staffer who essentially reports only to the Council member. Heilman has said the system needs to be radically reformed. Horvath and Duran also have expressed publicly and privately their support for major changes. A number of scandals involving Council deputies were revealed during the March election campaign, leading local residents to refer to the system as “Deputygate.” While D’Amico hasn’t taken a strong stand in favor of reform, he has continued to support his deputy, Michelle Rex, a political operative who is his former campaign manager. Rex is widely viewed as a major factor in the personal animosity among the five Council deputies. After her election, Meister named her campaign manager, Scott Schmidt, as her interim deputy and it is expected that he will assume that permanent role.

Heilman’s supporters have included the business community (including major residential and commercial developers), advocates for more affordable housing in West Hollywood and the political establishment. Among those endorsing him were the West Hollywood / Beverly Hills Democratic Club, the Stonewall Democratic Club, the California National Organization for Women, the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee and the Coalition for Economic Survival (CES). CES, the renters-rights group, organized the campaign that led to West Hollywood residents to vote to incorporate the city 30 years ago to protect renters from erosion of rent control laws by the then-conservative L.A. County Board of Supervisors. Heilman also has been endorsed by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and former Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

Among Heilman’s more controversial backers are major developers including Townscape Management, BMB Property Management and Excel Property Management. An independent expenditure committee, financed largely by real estate interests, raised nearly $100,000 to promote Heilman’s candidacy.

As this election campaign progressed it came to be viewed largely as a campaign by Block, Ettman and Shink against Heilman. Heilman’s opponents fell into several overlapping camps. Those camps included homeowners, who make up a small but more politically active percentage of the city, where about 80 percent of residents are renters. Homeowner groups have blamed Heilman for supporting new development in the city, which they have claimed has become overcrowded. Shink and Ettman have allied themselves with that camp. Another camp is preservationists, a number of whom were incensed by Heilman’s support for a plan, now unlikely to move forward, to demolish Great Hall / Long Hall, the historically designated building in Plummer Park. The preservationists have largely backed Shink. Block’s supporters have been a more eclectic crowd attracted to him by his unofficial role as the city’s “rabblerouser.” Block has become known for his outspoken and successful campaign for improved pedestrian safety measures in West Hollywood and for his campaign to have the iconic LGBT rainbow flag image integrated into the city’s official flag.

The anti-Heilman bloc encountered problems in the election with revelations about possibly illegal campaign finance activities by Shink and a series of lawsuits by the N. Y.. State Board of Elections against Cole Ettman for campaign finance violations in his home state and a lawsuit alleging financial improprieties by a business he owned.. Shink also has been criticized for making untrue claims, including that she was a member of the L.A. Chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women and that was instrumental in launching the city’s popular New Year’s Eve and Gay Pride events for sober people. Shink, a lesbian, also has been criticized for stating that she supported the boycott by LGBT activists of the Beverly Hills Hotel, whose owner has imposed homophobic sharia laws in Brunei, while also attending an event there.

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Rick Watts
Rick Watts
7 years ago

Minor correction re the rainbow flag issue: Larry Block led an effort to have the flag fly over city hall year-round, after City Manager Paul Arevalo directed it be flown only during June (Pride Month), with only official governmental flags flying year-round over what is after all a government building. The change in the city flag from its then-blue/white format to the current rainbow version was a compromise–welcomed by both sides–by Senior Advisory Board Member Lee Walkup, who noted that that alternate version of the city logo already had official precedence in use dating to Council’s 1998 after-the-fact ratification of… Read more »

Chris Sanger
Chris Sanger
7 years ago

Update but not final tally in:

Total voters = 4967

Heilman 2315 47%
Shink 1403 28%
Block 763 15%
Ettman 486 10%

That actually is a HIGHER turnout than March (38 more) with Heilman getting 3 more vote than top vote getter D’Amico then, and 249 more than he did himself in the same election.

Chris Sanger
Chris Sanger
7 years ago

Curious that the clerk didn’t release daily updates, unlike March (when the result was in doubt and filing deadline for June loomed).

I noticed that their web site doesn’t round % up; Heilman actually in the initial tally got just short of 48%.

We’re supposed to get the final tally today.

QuoinsAreUs
QuoinsAreUs
7 years ago

Banana= build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything

kayaytche
kayaytche
7 years ago

Oliver – what is a BANANA? Seriously asking . . .

Chris Sanger
Chris Sanger
7 years ago

Woody – point margins b/w lowest winning candidate and highest non-winner, 2001-15:

2001 – 19 (30%-11%
2003 – 1 (31-30%)
2005 – 27 (54-27%)
2007 – 6 (45-39%)
2009 – 24 (61-37%)
2011 – 8 (43-35%)
2013 – 15 (45-30%)
2015 – 1 (43-42%)

2015 – 20 (48-28%) (tentative)

Also if the 600 remaining ballots break out the same %, Heilman will end up with more votes than anyone in the March election.

Blowout is pretty close.

Woody McBreairty
Woody McBreairty
7 years ago

@Oliver Francis: All things considered, calling Heilman’s win a “blow out” is a little over the top. The “spread” between the candidates is not so dramatic considering Heilman’s 47%, as a 30 year incumbent, & Heidi Shink’s 28%, as a new & previously unknown entry into the race who received more than half as many votes as Heilman, even with her zero years of a record on the City Council. Theirs are very unequal circumstances as candidates. As a 30 plus year incumbent, Heilman should have won 70-80% of the votes to call it a “blow out” In reality, Heilman… Read more »

kab1200
kab1200
7 years ago

That’s B.S. Woody. It’s a blow out.

Guy Privaton (@guyprivaton)

Me too kab1200 !

and thanks for the info chris !

cronyism across the board in the city must end
but
first we’ll get straw solutions
to look like a fix while keeping the cronyism
Meister,
D’Amico,
Heilman,
Duran
all keep it up
Heilman lapdog Horvath
will too

deputygate ends with the election

Oliver Francis
Oliver Francis
7 years ago

These Election results are compelling. First, the turnout was robust for a special election with a single issue on it, one city council seat. Second, the spread between Heilman and the rest of the pack made it a blow out. Voters have spoken loud and clear. The March results were an anomaly. Voters had a glimpse of what the city would be like without solid, mature, sensible and balanced leadership. Never mind the the folks who cry that Heilman didn’t a majority of the votes cast. Our local elections are like runoffs, all you need are more votes than the… Read more »

kab1200
kab1200
7 years ago
Reply to  Oliver Francis

I agree 100% Oliver.

Robert Chandler
7 years ago

Congratulations to Mr. Heilman on his victory. And to the developers who paid for it. Well done!

Gatto Bizzarro
7 years ago

Heilman was voted out when he was running on his record. He was voted back in now that he ran on the money of developers who owe him decades of policies that allowed the construction of montrosities all over the city. His animosity towards D’Amico and Meister and his unwillingness to compromise are so unreasonable and so ridiculous to appear like the textbook case of a once visionary man who ends up using politics to stop time. This is NOT 1984 anymore, when West Hollywood needed to attract developers and investors. Sticking to such an outdated vision will not stop… Read more »

Randy
Randy
7 years ago

Chris Sanger, you can always be counted on to defend Heilman. Maybe he is a better candidate? I hope so. He barely made an appearance during this second election, mostly because he doesn’t have to? Where the others were vocal, knocking on doors, etc.. Heilman doesn’t seem to have a grasp on social media, where maybe the others have to? No “coffee with the Councilman.” I would hope that his defeat in March would make him more connected, but it didn’t seem to change much of anything. My main problem with Heilman is that he seems disconnected, even if extremely… Read more »

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