Election season is once again upon the good folks in West Hollywood, where politics is often played as a contact sport. With an exception or two, it's almost always liberal Democrats fighting against liberal Democrats, and the infighting can be quite a hoot.
This year, former West Hollywood City Councilman and rabble-rouser-in-residence Steve Martin is hitting the campaign trail in the small, world-famous city. West Hollywood Public Safety Commissioner Sam Borelli, a City Hall insider making a surprise move to unseat one of the two incumbents, is also running. Both Borelli and Martin held kick-off parties on Tuesday night.
“There's a sense in the city that it's time for new leadership,” Borelli told us at his soiree at Kitchen 24. West Hollywood City Council members Jeff Prang and John Duran “have done good work, but it's time for new blood.”
Duran and Prang are up for re-election. Prang has been sitting on the City Council since 1997 — fifteen years. Duran has been serving since 2001. West Hollywood residents will elect two candidates on March 5, 2013.
Recently, an interesting twist is emerging within the race: term limits. West Hollywood community activists have gathered enough signatures to place a pro-term limit initiative on the March ballot. Whether a candidate supports or opposes the idea will undoubtedly be a major issue on the campaign trail.
At his party at the Beverly lounge, Martin said about term-limit ballot measure, “It's a wild card because it's going to bring a whole lot of people out to vote who don't normally vote… It's going to create an interesting dynamic in the City Council race. Already, Jeff Prang has been hysterically against it.”
In a city where incumbents rarely lose, Martin, who just missed unseating longtime City Councilman John Heilman in 2011, thinks Prang and Duran are vulnerable this year.
“They've both done things to annoy residents and the business community,” says Martin, citing Prang and Duran's support for a controversial fur ban sale at retail stores and Prang's backing of an outdoor smoking ban at various nightlife spots. “If there's a time to be friendly to business, now is the time. But these guys are oblivious.”
Rabble rouser, indeed.
Martin has run on a shoe-string campaign budget in the past, but expects to raise between $50,000 and $70,000. The former councilman fully supports term limits.
“If people come to vote for term limits,” says Martin, “then it will help [my campaign]. I'm very identifiable with term limits.”
At Kitchen 24 in West Hollywood, Borelli, a longtime resident who seems more comfortable in the role of gentleman politician, says, “I'm not running against. I'm running for. I'm running for the next generation of leadership” in West Hollywood.
Borelli, though, does think Duran is more vulnerable to losing than Prang.
“John has alienated a lot of residents over the past few years,” says Borelli, also citing Duran's recent support for the fur ban.
On term limits, Borelli is straddling the fence. He signed the pro-term limit petition, but doesn't like that it proposes an elected official can only serve three, four-year terms. He'd prefer that a person could serve three terms, take a break for one term, and run for office again. Sounding like a veteran politician, Borelli says he's not supporting or opposing term limits at this time.
Borelli expects to raise $80,000. In West Hollywood, incumbents usually raise a minimum of $100,000. Christopher Landavazo, who works in the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, is also running for City Council. Expect the West Hollywood political scene to heat up after the new year.
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.