Sepi Shyne, a local attorney and a member of West Hollywood’s Business License Commission, has officially announced that she will run for a seat on the City Council in the Nov. 3, 2020, general election. As part of her campaign, Shyne has pledged to refuse all campaign contributions from real estate developers.
“I am running to serve West Hollywood residents and to put their needs first,” Shyne said. “I am not accepting a single penny from developers. I have the qualifications, passion and leadership skills to serve well. When we work together, we shine together.”
Shyne is the second person to formally announce as a candidate in the election, which is to fill two seats on the City Council currently held by John Duran and John Heilman. Noemi Torres, a real estate agent and a member of the city’s Public Facilities Commission, also has announced her candidacy. Torres also is on the board of the American Civil Liberties Union Los Angeles chapter. Eric Jon Schmidt and Jack Cline, unsuccessful candidates in the 2019 election, have told WEHOville that they are likely to run again. Schmidt has said that Cline has affirmed that he can use his drag queen name, Jackie OMG (Oh My God), on the ballot. Noemi Torres, a real estate agent and a member of the city’s Public Facilities Commission.
Shyne’s announcement kickstarts what is likely to be a highly competitive election. She came in fourth in the March 5 election for three City Council seats, only 141 votes behind Mayor John D’Amico. Only 21.8% of West Hollywood’s registered voters cast ballots in that election, a typically low turnout that usually results in incumbents being re-elected.
Moving the City Council election date to Nov. 3, 2020, the date on which state and federal elections will take place is likely to mean a much larger voter turnout, not least because one of the federal candidates will be the controversial Donald Trump. The City Council election date is being moved to the general state and federal election date of Nov. 3 to comply with a state law that applies to cities like West Hollywood that have a traditionally low voter turn-out. The Nov. 6, 2018, mid-term general election attracted 67.46% of West Hollywood’s 27,653 registered voters.
Candidates for the Nov. 3 City Council election can begin officially registering on July 13, 2020. The deadline for registering is Aug. 7, 2020. Candidates must contact the City Clerk’s office to begin the registration process. To register, a candidate must obtain the signatures of 20 West Hollywood registered voters on a nomination form that will be verified by the L.A. County Registrar Recorder.
Others who are said to have been considering a run for office are John Erickson, Heilman’s appointee to the Planning Commission who is director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles and head of the Hollywood Chapter of the National Organization for Women, and Steve Martin, a lawyer who served on the City Council from 1994 to 2003 and lost an election bid in 2017. However, Erickson has not confirmed that he will run for office and is said to be wary of hurting Heilman’s chance for re-election by siphoning off some of his votes.
While neither Heilman nor Duran has announced that he will run for re-election, political insiders believe that both will. Duran is rumored to be the candidate of the choice for real estate developers, who are the largest contributors of donations to West Hollywood City Council campaigns. However, his campaign will have to deal with the impact of allegations of his sexually inappropriate behavior with young members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, whose board he once chaired, and his statements about the sex lives of his fellow Council members, which led to them censuring him and to him stepping down as mayor. Those issues led to the Stonewall Democratic Club, which advocates for LGBT interests in the Democratic Party, and API Equality-LA, an Asian and Pacific Islander LGBTQ community organization, demanding that Duran resign. The Los Angeles Times also called for Duran to resign, likening his behavior to that of Harvey Weinstein.
Other issues that are likely to surface is Duran’s relationship with Ed Buck, the gay, white man who currently is in federal prison awaiting a trial for the deaths of two black men in his apartment from methamphetamine overdoses. Buck was a major contributor to Duran’s previous City Council campaigns and to his unsuccessful 2014 campaign for L.A. County Supervisor.
Shyne, 42 years old, was born in Iran. As a child, she and her family fled the country’s revolutionary war, immigrating to California in 1977. She and her wife Ashlei have lived in West Hollywood for over 10 years.
In the announcement of her candidacy, Shyne said her advocacy for the LGBTQ community began in college when she was the victim of a traumatic incident of homophobia, inspiring her to pursue a law degree alongside her passion for social justice and community activism.
If elected, Shyne would be the first foreign-born immigrant, the second lesbian, and the first woman of color ever elected in West Hollywood. In her announcement, Shyne said that as a renter and small business owner, her goals include “prioritizing renter’s rights and affordable housing over favors to large developers as well as creating a thriving small business environment.”
“Join my team by volunteering and/or donating and become a pivotal partner of my progressive, people-powered, history-making campaign.” Shyne said. “Let’s work together to bring respect, community advocacy, and fresh energy back to City Council.”