West Hollywood gay pioneers clash with younger progressives over future of city

John Duran is styling himself as a law-and-order candidate for West Hollywood City Council, posing in front of sheriff’s cruisers on his campaign website and touting his endorsement by the deputies’ union.

It’s a stark contrast from the Duran of the early 1990s, when as a 30-something activist attorney, he helped sue the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department for alleged discrimination against a gay deputy and for withholding medication from a gay jail inmate with AIDS.

Duran, 63, spent two decades on the West Hollywood City Council and is now considered part of the political old guard of this famously liberal, famously gay city, as many younger residents embrace a brand of progressivism far to the left of its founding fathers.

With three council seats being contested, many are hurling accusations that the other side has sold out — the moderates to big business and developers, and the progressives to outside activists and labor unions.

Duran and two other former councilmen are hoping to recapture their seats and influence a council they say has veered too far to the left because of its economic policies and decision to scale back sheriff’s staffing.

“Now, I am the quote-unquote conservative, which is bizarre because I’ve been a liberal Democrat almost my whole life,” Duran said. “But compared to what’s out there? I’ve become the moderate voice — pro-sheriff, pro-Chamber [of Commerce], pro-business.”

In 2020, the balance of power shifted on the City Council.

Duran — who was dogged by sexual harassment allegations while in office, including by a former aide he hired after meeting on Grindr and having sex with him — and John Heilman, who had been on the council since the city’s founding, lost their at-large seats to two younger, more liberal candidates.

On the heels of the national defund the police movement, the council decided this summer to incrementally cut up to four deputies from the West Hollywood sheriff’s station while hiring 30 additional unarmed security guards to monitor the streets.

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