West Hollywood election: John Heilman loses seat after 30-plus years

West Hollywood Councilman John Heilman, elected to city's first council in 1984, loses seat

A veteran politician who has been a West Hollywood councilman since the city incorporated more than 30 years ago has lost his seat in an election that will reshape the City Council.

Mayor Pro Tem John Heilman, elected to West Hollywood’s first City Council in 1984, came in fourth place in an at-large election for three council seats. The city counted nearly 800 provisional and mail-in ballots Thursday and Friday.

Heilman lost by 68 votes, according to the unofficial vote tally released by the city Friday afternoon.

The council in a city seen as a leader in gay activism has long been dominated by long-term incumbents. Voters approved a term-limit ballot measure in 2013, which will restrict council members to three four-year terms.

The top-two vote-getters in Tuesday's election were Mayor John D’Amico with 2,309 votes, and Lauren Meister, a longtime resident and market research professional, with 2,136 votes.

The third council seat will go to Lindsey Horvath, an advertising executive who served two years on the council after being appointed after a member’s death. Horvath had 2,133 votes.

The election represents a dramatic makeover for a five-person council made up of familiar faces. One of the seats filled this week has long been held by Councilwoman Abbe Land, who is stepping down after 23 years. 

D’Amico, who was elected in 2011, and Heilman were up for re-election. Another seat was vacated by Jeffrey Prang in the fall when he was elected county assessor. That seat will be filled in June and Heilman could mount a quick comeback and run in that election. 

In the fall, with Prang still on the council, all but one of the members, D’Amico, had been in office for more than a decade.

The new council members will be sworn in March 16.

The council members serve rotating one-year terms as mayor, a largely symbolic role. Heilman was slated to become the next mayor, but with his defeat, the next in line to be mayor is Councilman John Duran, who has been embroiled in controversy recently after acknowledging that he had been sexually intimate with a man he later hired as his highly-paid council deputy.

The council will vote on whether to inaugurate Duran as mayor.

Duran hired Ian Owens after meeting him on Grindr, a dating app for gay and bisexual men but insisted he did so only because he was the best qualified candidate.

Owens was suspended in January for allegedly bugging the office of Heilman’s deputy, Fran Solomon, and emailing snippets of her personal phone calls to local bloggers. Owens later said he was a “whistle-blower” and alleged Solomon was illegally soliciting campaign contributions on city time for Heilman.

The new City Council is now poised to reform or eliminate the controversial deputy system.

For more West Hollywood news, follow @haileybranson on Twitter.

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