John D'Amico, West Hollywood Non-Incumbent, Wins Historic First Seat in City Council Race; Heilman, Land Close Behind
BREAKING NEWS: West Hollywood City Council frontrunner John D'Amico made history today, when -- after a final count of 757 provisional and absentee ballots -- he surpassed two decades-old incumbents and pushed out their pet appointee for first place in the city election.
PHOTO BY JENNIE WARREN John D'Amico: The WeHovians' choice.
This is the first time since fabulous, gay-friendly West Hollywood's inception that a non-incumbent has earned the No. 1 spot.
D'Amico was in second place when polls closed last Tuesday, but netted a disproportionately high number of the remaining votes today for a triumphant win.
Here are the final candidate tallies, with incumbents in bold:
John D'Amico: 2,876
Abbe Land: 2,832
John Heilman: 2,624
Steve Martin: 2,320
Lindsey Horvath: 2,122
Scott Schmidt: 1,447
Mito Avilas: 1,057
Lucas John: 559
Mark Gonzaga: 550
Martin Topp: 158
The non-incumbent favorite paraded down the West Hollywood streets on election night with current WeHo City Councilmember John Duran as a show of victory, but says he got cold feet as soon as he retreated home in the wee hours.
"I was a nervous wreck all weekend," he says. "I am not a mathematician, but I was not going to believe I had gotten a seat at all until all ballots were counted."
Turns out D'Amico had little reason to doubt his popularity among the people.
There had been some controversy last week over the WeHo City Clerk's significant overestimation of remaining ballots, and the apparent disorder in the counting process overall. But D'Amico says he's proud of the way the race was run. (Of course, he did win said contest.)
"I just believe in the process," he says. "I'm a big fan of [City Clerk] Tom West, and I really believe that he did everything possible to make sure that everything in this election went off without a hitch."
D'Amico also gives a heartfelt shout-out to the LA Weekly's own Patrick Range McDonald, who he says contributed "in no small way" to the city's renewed interest in local politics.
To read McDonald's masterful West Hollywood cover stories for yourself, see "Dethroning West Hollywood's Martinets: Can Five Intriguing Gay Men Upset the City Council's 26-year Dynasty?" and "West Follywood: How a Progressive Town Founded on Renters' Rights and Diversity Ended Up Gridlocked, Angry and Elitist." The latter piece, coincidentally (or not), opened on a scene starring D'Amico, Heilman and Land.
WeHo even caught the eye of the New York Times this election season, though the major national rag avoided development drama to take a more "Is Mayor John Heilman De-Gaying the Gayest City in America?" approach.
Of almost 40,000 residents, WeHo saw an unusually high total voter turnout of 6,103 this March 8. From the Weekly's election-night live blog:
In fact, if that number holds, it may be the most ballots cast since the city was first incorporated in 1984, when the total was 17,022. (West Hollywood City Clerk records are incomplete for 1986 and 1990 and don't clearly show total number of ballots cast.)
Asked if it's unusual for incumbents to win in an election with higher voter turnout than previous years, Los Angeles-based Democratic political consultant Bill Carrick says, "In local elections, the more active campaigns and candidates there are, the higher the turnout.
"In this case, the incumbents knew they were being seriously challenged and ran aggressive campaigns. It is very hard to beat well-known incumbents in local elections, and West Hollywood has almost always re-elected incumbents."
Now, with D'Amico there to karate-chop the Land-Heilman-Horvath voting block alongside current Councilmembers Duran and Jeffrey Prang ("Jeff spoke at my wedding," says D'Amico; ah, small-town life), and with the revived interest of the community to keep them on their toes, a new way of running WeHo seems a major possibility.
"Things will definitely change," says D'Amico.
And aren't we glad to hear it.
Update: Heilman and Land aren't speaking to the Weekly anymore, but we'd like to extend our congratulations to the two incumbent winners today, as well. Here's to another four years of public accountability and hot West Hollywood discourse.