Political club endorsements go to incumbents

January 17, 2013

In the race for two seats on the West Hollywood city council, two political clubs’ endorsements are seen as must-wins for candidates because of the time, money and effort the embers of the clubs usually expend on behalf of those candidates.

Generally speaking, because the clubs are political clubs (defined as “the art or science of influencing people's beliefs on a civic or individual level), the candidates with the longest and closest association with them get the nod.

Thus no one was surprised by the overwhelming support given to the incumbents facing reelection in March, Jeffrey Prang and John Duran, by the Stonewall Democratic Club and the West Hollywood/Beverly Hills Democratic Club within the past few days.

On Tuesday night, Stonewall endorsed Mayor Prang by a 111 to 15 vote margin.

Mr. Duran won the club’s endorsement 89 – 38.

Stonewall Democratic Club was founded in 1970 by gay movement pioneer Morris Kight, who saw that influencing the body politic would hasten the roll back f anti-gay legislation.

In the meeting’s moment of political drama, Mr. Prang’s endorsement was pulled from the consent calendar by Steve Martin supporter Sheila Lightfoot in an effort to foment debate on it.

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Ms. Lightfoot told WeHo News that, “by club rules, it was my only way to speak against him. He says he listens but he only listens to the people he agrees with and really doesn’t listen to the rest of us.

Steve Martin is running his seventh campaign for cou ncil – he has won two of them, both in the 1990s.

“Most of [the incumbent’s opposition] think the process doesn’t allow participation of the rest of us; Jeff always defends the process,’ she said. “It’s time that we have a change so that we can have new ideas considered.”

Ms. Lightfoot is also deeply involved in the Term Limits effort and acknowledged that she joined the Stonewall club as a way of insinuating her way into the process.

Another recently joined member, Elyse Eisenberg, another Term Limits and Steve Martin supporter, spoke out against John Duran’s endorsement, complaining that he, too, fails to listen to residents’ concerns.

Specifically, she pointed to his yeah vote for the failed Sunset Strip Centrum Sunset project below her home, one that she took the lead on opposing.

But Steve Martin, who is running in his seventh bid for election to council (two were successful), forcefully and passionately condemned Mr. Duran.

Calling him his “friend,” Mr. Martin went on to say that Mr. Duran was “losing it.”

He called Mr. Duran’s opposition to Torie Osborn’s tactics of packing Democratic clubs with her supporters (he decried the tactic saying, “We’re not all lesbians”) a “tantrum” and characterized it as a “misogynistic slur.”

In an interview with WeHo News, he stated flatly, “John Duran is a misogynist.”

Ed Buck, who ran on a slate with Mr. Martin in 2007 for election to council, followed him to the podium and gave his assessment of Mr. Martin’s character.

Steve Martin, “screwed me [and heavenly Wilson],” said Mr. Buck.

John Duran has been a leader in the LGBT rights movement and won the endorsement of the Stonewall Democratic Club despite ill-feelings engendered during the Torie Osborn-Betsy Butler Assembly race primary battle (Ms. Osborn took fourth place in the four-way race).

In 2007, “He told me lies to my face. He betrayed me. He’ll do it to you. It is pathological. This is not about a race for city council, this is about that man’s ego.”

After the meeting, according t Mr. Buck, Mr. Martin approached him in a rage, threatening to “get a restraining order against me so I couldn’t hurt his election chances. He says John Duran has lost it; it looks more like Steve has jumped the shark,” said Mr. Buck.

He told WeHo News that Mr. Martin promised to walk precincts and to man the phones set up in Mr. Buck’s apartment – the slate’s campaign office – but chose to spend his time in other ways.

“He had expectations that, because he was a former city council member,” said Mr. Buck, “that we peons should do all the hard work to get him back onto the council. It’s not unlike today, where he expects the Term Limits crew and the issue itself to sweep him into the office the voters have, in their benighted way, failed to realize is his right.”

Mr. Martin was unable to respond to requests for an interview before publication, citing a busy schedule.

The West Hollywood Democratic Club endorsement the following night was, by all accounts, a sleepy affair next to the Stonewall affair.

Simply following the recommendation of the club’s endorsement committee, the members voted to support the incumbents with 70 votes for and 9 votes against.

The "WEHONA" slate in 2007, Ed Buck, Heavenly Wilson and Steve Martin.

The only sour note in the triumphal march toward endorsement was Ms. Lightfoot, who again spoke out against Mr. Prang.

She told WeHo News that it occurred to her that no one had taken issue with the accolades the incumbents regularly received about the city’s fiscal state (Fitch Ratings regularly gives the city a AAA) and full coffers.

Rather than rail against the incumbents, she said she took another tack, asking a question instead.

“If the city is so well managed and has such a great fiscal policy, why in our last budget process was the budget put together but then they added $1 million for sheriffs and security and said we need to extend parking meter times and increase fines to pay for that?”

On whether or not her enquiries made any difference, she told WeHo News, “the clubs are very insular, and if I hadn’t pulled the endorsement from consent or asked the question, no one would have had a chance to hear the other side.

“But I wasn’t surprised; the clubs are going to endorse the incumbents because they have been involved with the club for years. If they don’t make room for new members like me and new ideas, they’ll continue to get more insular.”