A new coalition of West Hollywood businessmen and political moderates will test its strength by backing incumbent Stephen Schulte, rent board Commissioner Ruth Williams and veteran Republican Tom Larkin in the April 8 City Council election.
The endorsements, announced late last week by leaders of West Hollywood for Good Government, are designed to coalesce political and financial support behind the three candidates.
Leaders of the group hope to avoid the circumstances of the city's first council race in November, 1984, when campaign funds and political endorsements were spread thin among 40 candidates.
In the April election, Schulte and council incumbents Mayor John Heilman and Helen Albert face seven challengers.
Appealing to Community
"With these endorsements, we can put all our resources behind three fine candidates," said Tony Melia, one of the group's co-chairmen and president of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. "We think we've endorsed three people who will appeal to every segment of the community."
The endorsements may complicate matters, however, for at least two of the candidates. Both Schulte and Williams are also trying to win the backing of the influential Coalition for Economic Survival, a tenants' rights group that has already endorsed Heilman and Albert.
In recent weeks, the Good Government group has portrayed itself as a competitor to the tenant coalition for influence on the City Council. Good Government leaders have claimed that the tenant coalition, which backed four of five winning candidates in the 1984 council election, has exerted too much pressure on city policies. Melia characterized the coalition as a "one-trick pony," preoccupied with maintaining a strong rent-control law.
The tenant coalition's director, Larry Gross, said it was too early to determine whether his group could support candidates also endorsed by the Good Government group. "We will have to talk to the parties involved and assess the situation," he said.
But Gross also acknowledged that the endorsements would "probably raise some eyebrows" among members of his coalition's steering committee. "They (Good Government) have been clear about what they think of us," Gross said. "We still don't know who they represent. That's certainly one concern we have."
His coalition's steering committee is scheduled to interview Schulte and Williams on Tuesday night.
Prospect of Unity
Williams said she would be comfortable running with both endorsements. "I don't see the two groups as mutually exclusive," she said. "(The Coalition for Economic Survival) represents one part of the community and West Hollywood for Good Government represents the rest. I'd like to hope we could unite everybody."
Although Schulte could not be reached for his reaction to the Good Government endorsement, he has said in the past that he could run with both endorsements.
Williams, a veteran rent-control activist who is a former member of the tenant coalition, said the Good Government endorsement would help her among some segments of the community where she was not well known, particularly among businessmen and Republicans.
Republicans are a target group for Tom Larkin, a real estate agent and the third of the Good Government group's endorsed candidates. There are more than 4,000 registered Republicans in West Hollywood (nearly 20% of the city's 20,000 registered voters) and Larkin said they did not participate in large numbers in the 1984 race.
"I think there's a strong likelihood that Republicans would vote their minds on money matters and that's one of the issues that both I and West Hollywood for Good Government agree on," Larkin said. "We both feel the city needs better financial management."
Larkin said he expects his campaign to benefit financially from the Good Government group. "It's been hard raising money in the last few weeks because a lot of the contributors have been waiting to see who will be endorsed," he said. "This endorsement can only help."
The Good Government organization is also forming a political action committee, which will make limited contributions to the three candidates on its slate, Melia said. He outlined an campaign plan that would include political mailings on behalf of the slate, a fund-raising event and a half-hour cable television program the night before the election which would present the three candidates to the public.
The Good Government group has also hired a San Fernando Valley-based polling firm to survey West Hollywood residents on their feelings about the City Council. Melia said that the poll will test the public's attitudes about "everything from potholes to the city's image" and that the results will be used by the Good Government group to select issues in the election campaign.
Other candidates in the April race are Jeffrey Cole, an actor; Stephen D. Michael, an auto salesman; Alan R. Mulquinn, a computer software consultant; Ron Stone, a city incorporation movement founder, and Mark Werksman, an attorney.