Assembly Candidate Osborn's Latest Endorsement Comes Amid Controversy

Longtime West Hollywood-Beverly Hills Democratic Club members say sudden influx of new, pro-Osborn members stacked the vote in her favor. Candidate defends tactic.

It was a tense Wednesday night in West Hollywood as California Assembly candidate received another local Democratic club's key endorsement, one mired in controversy.

The community organizer won the support of the West Hollywood-Beverly Hills Democratic Club—her eighth endorsement from eight area Democratic clubs in recent weeks, again edging out her opponents in the upcoming primary, incumbent Betsy Butler and Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom.

But Weho-Beverly Hills club members say their endorsement process was hijacked by way of a slew of new members who allegedly joined the club for the sole purpose of securing the Osborn endorsement. Similar charges were made at the of Osborn earlier this month.

The organization has about 125 members, 35 to 40 of whom are actively involved, according to the club's president, Lillian Raffel. She said the club received 45 new members on Dec. 29—their memberships all paid for with a single check amounting to $1,125.

Some of those new members live in communities outside the area, including Glendale and Norwalk, which are not in the new 50th Assembly District. Club bylaws do not have any residency restrictions, just that a member voting on the endorsement must have joined within the previous 25 days. 

Longtime members say those 45 new members were enough to push the endorsement vote in the candidate's favor. Osborn defended the tactic when Patch questioned her.

After a short thank-you speech pledging to serve the interests of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, as well as the club, Osborn told Patch she needed the local endorsements.

“I’m thrilled to have this [endorsement]” Osborn said, explaining she believes the state Democratic endorsement will be “stacked against me” since it consistently favors the incumbent candidate, who in this case is Betsy Butler.

“We’re in it to win it,” Osborn told Patch. “I have a grass-roots army that’s working with me. ... People joining clubs in order to vote for who they vote for is part of the grass roots. It just is part of the tactics. People do it all the time. I’m proud of my troops.”

Proposed dual endorsement

At the beginning of the meeting, the club’s executive panel was recommending dual endorsements of both Osborn and Butler.

Club President Raffel explained that the executive panel interviewed Osborn, Butler and Bloom. Raffel reported the 13-member panel had voted 6-6-1 for Osborn, Butler and Bloom, in that order. Thus, they were recommending the dual endorsement.

But the full club did not go for that dual endorsement, voting 27-47 against it. A motion was then made to endorse Butler, but that too failed with a 25-46 vote. Finally, a motion to endorse Osborn was made, passing 43-28.

Tension in the room

Prior to the start of the meeting, the new members were the talk of the room, many club members angry about them joining at the last minute. As the meeting got under way, the atmosphere in the room was tense.

An hour into the meeting, Weho Mayor John Duran, a longtime club member, spoke, acknowledging the many new faces in the room. “Don’t hijack our process and never come back again,” Duran said. “Don’t do to us what you did in Malibu.”

After Duran spoke, the mood in the room lightened somewhat, but with each successive endorsement vote, the tension began to rise.

By the time Osborn won the endorsement—at the end of the nearly three-hour meeting—Duran could no longer contain his frustration. Storming out, he said, “West Hollywood will not forget this.”

Ploy used 'aggressively,' some say 

Although no one else was as vocal as Duran, several others approached Patch to voice their displeasure.

“I have never seen anything as aggressive as this,” said longtime member Norman Chramoff, a Weho resident. “I’ve seen people stuff these meetings and buy memberships before, but in 25 years of doing this, I’ve never seen anybody so aggressive about it.”

Weho Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Prang was equally concerned. He believed the outcome might not have been for Osborn had just the core club members voted, but as a two-time past president of the club, he also recognized that buying a large chunk of memberships was within the club’s rules.

“They’re effectively using the rules in ways that haven't really been used before,” said Prang, who reports he is friends with all three contenders, but is supporting Butler since she is the incumbent. “It demonstrates where there is a weakness, where the club’s endorsements can be manipulated.”

Raffel told Patch she hopes some of these new members will return for future meetings, but said she won’t be surprised if they don’t. “I have never seen it [new members coming in] to this degree,” she said. “People bring in a few more people, but not to this extent.”

She added she was disappointed that the dual endorsement option didn’t pass. “I really felt that having the dual endorsements was more reflective of our club,” Raffel said.

Tactic used by D'Amico, Osborn notes

Following the meeting, Osborn noted West Hollywood City Councilman John D’Amico did something similar when he was seeking the club's endorsement during his race for City Council and enrolled 45 new members into the club.

Patch phoned D’Amico’s former campaign manager Renee Nahum, now working on the Bloom campaign, to confirm that charge. Nahum said the D’Amico campaign brought in 12 new members to the club a year ago, all West Hollywood residents.

Regardless, the tactic did not work for D’Amico, as the club ended up endorsing incumbents John Heilman, Abbe Land and Lindsey Horvath. However, at election time, D’Amico was the top vote-getter in the City Council race.

Other Democratic endorsements

The club also voted to endorse Danette Meyers for Los Angeles County district attorney over openly gay candidate Mario Trujillo, along with incumbents Dianne Feinstein for U.S. senator, Rep. Henry Waxman for the 33rd Congressional District seat (of which Beverly Hills is a part), and Rep. Adam Schiff for the 28th Congressional District seat (of which West Hollywood is now a part, due to redistricting).

Stay up to date on West Hollywood news and events, by following @WehoPatch and “like” on Facebook.

jimmy February 03, 2012 at 02:33 AM
David, it is perfectly reasonable to make personal attacks on people when they deserve it, and even if they don't deserve it. Politics is dirty whether on a local level or world/national level. I am totally interested if someone is pointed out as a liar and/or hypocrit. I want to be informed, I want to know this. If Crystal wanted to disprove anything, she had the chance, and she choose instead to make personal attacks on the messenger. So I'll presume everything Allegra said was correct unless Crystal defends herself or sues Allegra. John Duran is an entitled hot-head and I'm glad people in a public forum got to see it first hand. He's like a big baby and when he doesn't get his way, especially when someone is better at stacking votes than he is, he's a cry baby. I'll give him credit for being honest about it. But how dare you criticize Allegra for pointing out what some of us want to know. Shame on you.
Crystal Litz February 03, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Allegra - the whole Googling people you meet on a message board is just creepy. Your candidate Richard Bloom really needs help... why not use your, um... skills (?) to assist his campaign instead? Or maybe post your real name so we can spend valuable billable time looking YOU up (as if)? I'm flattered, but not interested.
Manny February 06, 2012 at 11:19 AM
If our out-going Mayor doesn't like the Osborne endorsment, she must be a great choice.
Margaret Okuzumi February 08, 2012 at 06:46 PM
These Clubs need to get a clue and create an endorsement process that is less subject to manipulation. We've attempted to do so at the Democratic Club of Sunnyvale. People can't just pay dues--they need to have attended a prior meeting to be allowed to vote. This and other aspects of our process make it transparent to all and result in much less rancor over tough endorsement decisions, like one we just had. Check it out: sunnyvaledems.org
Stacy Dalgleish April 19, 2012 at 03:32 AM
I wonder how many of the new members were from the district. I'm guessing that it was a higher percentage than those sent to the CDC by our Speaker. Stacy Dalgleish


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »