Marquita Thomas, the executive director of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, has announced that she will be a candidate in the March 5, 2019, election for the West Hollywood City Council.
Thomas is one of two African-American candidates in the March election, which is unprecedented in a city whose population is overwhelmingly Caucasian. Also running is Timothy Williams, an African-American man and political newcomer. If Thomas were to win she would be the second openly lesbian member of the council. The first was Valerie Terrigno, who became a member of the West Hollywood’s first city council in 1984 and was installed as mayor before resigning after being accused and convicted of stealing $7,000 from a small non-profit she ran. Currently three of the found city council members are gay men and two are heterosexual women.
Thomas joined the LAGLCC board of directors in 2009 and served as president for two years before being hired as the organization’s first full-time executive director. During her time as executive director, she lead the chamber’s support of AB1677, a measure that requires that LGBT businesses be included in the diversity marketing campaigns and contracting budgets of companies regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission, and AB53 which requires that LGBT suppliers be included in diversity budgets of national insurance companies doing business in California.
Thomas began her career as a community organizer during her days at Occidental College. After graduating, she moved to West Hollywood and worked in the entertainment business (40 Acres & A Mule, FreMantle Media, Ascent Media). She also served in leadership roles with Los Angeles Black Gay Pride, United Lesbians of African Heritage and West Hollywood’s Lesbian Visibility Board.
Thomas also produced the Serafemme Festival, a music festival for lesbian women of color that was sponsored by the City of West Hollywood from 2005-2008. Councilmember Lindsey Horvath, with whom Thomas will be competing in the 2019 city council election, appointed her to West Hollywood’s Lesbian & Gay Advisory Board, where she has served as co-chair.
Until recently, Thomas also served on the board of directors for Christopher Street West, the non-profit responsible for the annual L.A. Gay Pride parade and festival in West Hollywood. Thomas was one of several board members who failed to be re-elected in October after a push by other board members to reshape the organization, which had been embroiled in controversy. The controversy included protests and threats of boycotts after CSW decided to turn the 2016 festival into a music festival aimed at millennials, and initially cut back programming for transgender people and lesbians and raise ticket prices 45%. In what other board members claimed was a reaction to complaints by them to the media, CSW demanded that board members sign a very restrictive non-disclosure agreement, which prompted four members of the 11-member board to resign.
The controversy continued when WEHOville revealed that CSW had lost $395,000 on the 2016 festival, a loss initially not disclosed to the public or the board by then-board president Chris Classen, who also failed to be re-elected in October. And in May WEHOville revealed Classen had signed a contract with former board member Craig Bowers, who is his business partner, that guaranteed him the exclusive right to earn a commission from sponsors of the 2018 parade and festival. That deal is a violation of ethical standards of major non-profit organization groups and a likely violation of state law.
In addition to incumbents John D’Amico, Lauren Meister and Lindsey Horvath and challenger Thomas, the 2019 election will include challengers Jon Eric Schmidt, Jack Cline, Timothy Williams, James Duke Mason and Tom Demille.
Those interested in running for one of the three city council seats must submit the required paperwork, obtainable from the city clerk, by Dec. 7. Candidates must obtain between 20 and 30 signatures from West Hollywood registered voters to qualify.