At the end of what has been a contentions campaign, with anger and calls for change in the air, it seems that the scenario that was perhaps most predictable played out as voters went to the polls today in West Hollywood. Even so, many were hoping that the fierce campaign might have led to the unseating of 26 year incumbent John Heilman.
With all 11 West Hollywood voting precincts reporting, it appears that John D’Amico will join the West Hollywood City Council, unseating the newest member of the council, Lindsey Horvath. Abbe Land and John Heilman will retain their seats on the council, coming in first and third respectively in the final election night vote tally.
D’Amico had been seen as a contender going into the election today with a strong campaign and impressive fundraising numbers. Results of a private poll that were leaked to WeHo News just a little over a week before the election also suggested a strong showing for D’Amico, putting him essentially tied with Heilman behind leader Abbe Land. Early returns tonight put him in first place before he dropped back to finish solidly in second place ahead of Heilman.
“This city clearly came together around this set of ideas that myself and the other four non-incumbents put together and brought this new narrative to the City of West Hollywood,” said D’Amico to West Hollywood Patch.
“What I have been trying to tell my colleagues is that they are not listening to the dissension out there,” said council member John Duran to West Hollywood Patch. “I’m just so glad that [D’Amico] won, because I think he will bring some balance back to the council, and that’s important.”
The shift in balance on the council will likely put council member Jeff Prang into the spotlight much more often as the swing vote between Heilman and Land on one side and D’Amico and Duran on the other.
“We have a new team that is charged by the voters to work together for the greater benefit of the community,” said Prang in a statement. “The new council has a lot of experience, talent and passion for the community, and I am confident that with the election now behind us, we will come together in pursuit of policies and programs that will continue to make West Hollywood a special place to live, work, and visit.”
Final results for votes counted on Tuesday night put Abbe Land at the top with 2,548 votes, followed by challenger John D’Amico with 2,471 votes. Mayor John Heilman came in third at 2,359 votes, which puts him 333 votes ahead of former council member Steve Martin who ended with 2,026 votes. Horvath trailed among the contenders with 1,902 votes.
Tom West, the City Clerk, announced that approximately 930 provisional ballots were cast and were not included in the vote tally on election night. But with more than a 300 point spread between the three leaders and Martin and Horvath, in fourth and fifth place respectively, it seems unlikely that the outcome will change upon final tally.
Martin held third place during the early election results, leading Heilman by 101 votes with three precincts reporting. But the incumbents started coming in strong after that and Heilman soon closed the gap and moved ahead.
Horvath held fifth place for almost the entire night, though at one point briefly moved into fourth place. She has been under fire from many directions as the newest member of the council due to the way she was appointed from a pool of 39 applicants to fill the vacancy created by the death of Sal Guarriello. Some were angered that she was appointed over other longer term residents of the city and that a special election was not called to decide on who would fill the vacancy.
There have also been complaints that Horvath was treated especially unfairly in the campaign as a female, while other women in the community have taken issue with that assessment.
“I’ve been fielding phones call day from women in the community saying it’s about time somebody spoke up about how the women are being treated and attacked in this election,” said Ivy Bottini to LGBT POV. “For 35 years, I’ve fought for gay men. Now I call upon gay men to stand with me and put women back on the council.”
“I do think there has been sexism in this campaign and that there has been a targeting with some of the statements and some of the allegations specifically directed to the two women running,” said council member Land in the same article. “I think people should be angry at that because all of us should be fair and talking about facts and not making the kinds of comments that are being made that are sexist, offensive and belittling.”
On the other hand, Sheila Lightfoot of WeHo Women for Change wrote an Op Ed in WeHo News calling Land and Bottini “fair weather feminists” who have not supported other female candidates in past elections.
“Personally, I’ll give my support to the candidates I think are most qualified for the job, not based on gender, and not based on sexual preference,” she wrote. “So, what if the non-incumbents happen to be male and happen to be gay? If they’re smart and share my vision of the future of West Hollywood, then they’ll get my vote.”
Of the remaining challengers, Scott Schmidt had the strongest showing in election returns on Tuesday night with 1,226 votes, followed by Mito Aviles with 919. Lucas John and Mark Gonzaga each had about 470 votes.
Martin Topp, who dropped out of the race but whose name still appeared on the ballot, trailed with 140 votes.
Measure A, the controversial Billboard Tax Act, was defeated by a wide margin. The initiative gained only 983 votes with 3,865 votes opposing the measure.
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