Primary results in mixed bag for Wehoans seeking higher office

June 5, 2014

By Ryan Gierach, West Hollywood, California

West Hollywood resident women’s rights activist Sandra Fluke’s second place finish nationalizes a normally sleepy race, West Hollywood council member Jeffrey Prang shows a strong hand in bid for County Assessor, West Hollywood council member John Duran, however, missed his bid for a top two position in the race for board of Supervisors. Sheila Kuehl, a pioneering lesbian legislator with close ties to the city, beat Bobby Shriver in that race handily. WeHo’s state senator, Ted Lieu, is favored to become a United States Congressman in November in Henry Waxman’s old district.

Seven candidates with close connections to West Hollywood fared very differently this Tuesday as voters winnowed down the selections to go into the General Election in November.

West Hollywood council member prevailed in the 12 person primary for the  LA County Assessor's Office.

West Hollywood council member prevailed in the 12 person primary for the LA County Assessor’s Office.

The majority of them, five, made the all-important final two spots on the General Election ballot in November.

Two of them, however, will not see their names on the ballot

The biggest news may well be WeHo social justice attorney Sandra Fluke’s second place finish qualifying her for a run for the 26th Senatorial District, of which West Hollywood is part, in the General Election.

School board member Ben Allen won first place with 19710 votes; Ms. Fluke fell roughly 190 votes shy of that with 17797 votes. This race, which would normally be something of a sleeper, has suddenly vaulted into the national spotlight due to Ms. Fluke’s prominence gained when Rush Limbaugh attacked her in 2012 as a “slut.”

That election-year defamation, made in the middle of a debate over the Affordable Care Act, came as a result of the House’s refusal to allow her to testify about the ACA’s contraceptive mandate and how important it is the insurers be compelled to cover family planning. House Democrats responded by inviting her to speak to them – alone.

That stance and her support of President Obama earned her a speaking role at the Democratic National Convention in 2102, and when Henry Waxman declared his retirement, she initially jumped into that race. She decided in the weeks that followed that she would instead run for State Senator.

A victory by Ms. Fluke in November would further burnish West Hollywood’s role as a socially progressive community, especially on women’s issues; Ms. Fluke joins a long list of women’s rights activists who have made WeHo a “pro-choice city.”

Martha Plimpton speaking at West Hollywood's commemoration of the 41st anniversary of Roe V Wade. Weho is proud of its place as "America's first pro-choice city." Photo by Josh Barash.

Martha Plimpton speaking at West Hollywood’s commemoration of the 41st anniversary of Roe V Wade. Weho is proud of its place as “America’s first pro-choice city.” Photo by Josh Barash.

West Hollywood’s Congressional Representative, Adam Schiff, cruised to a victory in the primary with a smidge short of 75 percent of votes cast. His opponent in November is Steve Stokes, who received 17.59 percent of the vote.

West Hollywood city council member Jeffrey Prang took the top spot in a crowded primary contest (12 names appeared on the ballot), with 89,742 votes, or 18 percent,

His nearest competitor, a former district attorney, won 81,523 votes for a 16.4 percent total. John Morris received a boost from the LA Times when they endorsed him, but his critics claim he is inexperienced in management and unfamiliar with the Assessor’s office, its task and mission.

Mr. Prang works in the office as a special executive assistant, now overseeing the digitization of the tax system.

In the primary’s aftermath, Mr. Prang expressed gratitude to the voters and relief that the first leg in the journey is behind him. “I am very grateful for the depth and breadth of the support I received from the voters across the county and the support I received from the Democratic Party… I will work hard to show I’m the best choice for the office between now and November.”

WeHo council member John Duran has been fighting for "the other" his entire adult life. Now he'll back the person who can keep the County's budget in the black.

WeHo council member John Duran has been fighting for “the other” his entire adult life. Now he’ll back the person who can keep the County’s budget in the black.

He believes that his first place finish promises a much larger lead going into November than the few percentage points separating Mr. Morris and himself.

“There were 11 people running from inside the office, which shows how much interest there is in getting the right person there at the Assessor’s Office, so I hope to gain their supporters’ votes. [Mr. Morris] is a DA… I am confident that I can make the case for my remaining in  the executive offices.”

The other two WeHo pols to run in races fared less well. WeHo council member John Duran came in third place in his challenge to Bobby Shriver and Sheila Kuehl for the 3rd Supervisorial District Board seat being vacated by Zev Yaroslavsky.

Seriously out-raised and out-spent by the Kennedy family scion and the pioneering lesbian legislator with deep roots throughout the district, having served it before. Bobby Shriver spent close to $2 million dollars for his second place finish, while Ms. Kuehl spent $1.2 million.

Mr. Shriver’s spending failed to overcome Ms. Kuehl’s higher name recognition; he received 34,509 votes for 28.80 percent ($55 for each vote). Ms.Kuehl, though, received 43,348 votes for 36.18 percent.

Mr. Duran notes that the seat at stake has traditionally been the moderate center, socially progressive and fiscally conservative.

Sheila Kuehl, a lesbian who wrote many of the laws that broke ground in California on LGBT issues, won a shot at the 3rd Supervisorial District in November with her wide margin primary victory.

Sheila Kuehl, a lesbian who wrote many of the laws that broke ground in California on LGBT issues, won a shot at the 3rd Supervisorial District in November with her wide margin primary victory.

In other local politician news, WeHo Republican attorney Brad Torgan ran for the Assembly seat this year against Democratic incumbent Richard Bloom to similar results in the past. His percentage of the vote – 26.7 – is roughly the same as the percentage of voters registered in the district as Republican.

Yet, because there appeared only two candidates on the new top-two primary system, Mr. Torgan will also appear on the ballot in November.

Finally, the district’s state senator, Ted Lieu, who was on an easy trajectory to another term in the senate, instead jumped into the congressional race in the district next door to West Hollywood’s, the 33rd district being vacated by House and liberal icon Henry Waxman.

That race, too, became crowded quickly, and Sen. Lieu came in second place to a Republican named Elan Carr who reaped 17,904 votes (as one of only three Republicans on the ballot) to Sen. Lieu’s 15,870, gained against nine Democrats. There were three No Party Designated candidates, one Green Party and one Libertarian candidate.

Observers expect the heavily Democratic District to go to Sen, Lieu in November. His replacement will be either Sandra Fluke or Ben Allen (see above).

In other races affecting the city, the special election for Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education District 1, went to retired principal/superintendent George McKenna, whor eceived 44.28 percent of the vote, while education policy adviser Alex Johnson garnered 24.67 percent.

In the closely watched race to replace retired and shamed Sheriff Lee Baca, Long Beach Police Department Chief Jim McDonnell nearly won the post with without having to go into the Feneral Election with 49.15 percent of the vote, but will instead stand against retired undersheriff Paul Tanaka (14.74 percent) in the coming election. Mr. Tanaka is under indictment for his alleged role in a cover up trying to thwart an FBI investigation into deputy violence in the jails.