California’s 34th Congressional District Election Gets Ugly and Public With Allegations of Sexual Harassment

Official Arturo Carmona campaign photo

This coming Tuesday (April 4), 24 candidates are running for the congressional set in Central Los Angeles which Xavier Becerra vacated once he became California’s attorney general. A lot of us here at Latino Rebels know many of the candidates running, since the race has countless Latino candidates in it and we have been part of LA’s online world for a few years now. Many of the candidates we know have been deeply involved in community organizing and progressive politics for several years. Some of those candidates contacted us to see if we can speak with them, feature them on our radio show or profile them on our site.

We decided that instead of profiling candidates individually, we would let any candidate interested to write about why they are running and get published on this site, with the understanding that we wouldn’t be endorsing anyone. So far, only one candidate (Wendy Carrillo) published her very personal piece on our site. In addition, we do have people who contribute to Latino Rebels working for some of the campaigns, but it is their personal decision that we as a group respect. They are free to do anything. We just let people know that we wouldn’t be endorsing anyone, and in fact, had made the editorial decision to not cover the race.

However, it is hard to not ignore what has transpired in the last 36 hours. We became aware of the issue when someone sent us Mesha Mendieta’s March 31 Medium piece, titled “The Secret Sexism of Arturo Carmona, Candidate for CD34.” In that post, Mendieta details her working relationship with Carmona when they were both working for Bernie Sanders campaign and Carmona was Mendieta’s boss. Carmona is one of the Sanders progressive-type candidates running for the California seat.

Mendieta linked to a Misogyny Leaks March 28 Facebook post saying that they “received numerous reports of sexism, mismanagement and lack of integrity from Arturo Carmona’s former colleagues, both from Bernie Sanders 2016 campaign staff and dating back to other orgs.” Mendiata also linked to a tweet from Misogyny Leaks, dated on March 27:

(According to both its Facebook and Twitter, MisognyLeaks started posting on these two social profiles on March 27 for Facebook and March 26 for Twitter.)

Later in the post, Mendieta, who wrote that she was contacted by the Carmona campaign to support Carmona, wrote this:

The whole situation grated at my inner integrity — my Bernie meter as I call it — and after that call, I decided to tell the truth about Arturo Carmona as I witnessed it. I live in Congressional District 34. I’m voting here. We’re talking about someone who would literally represent me. For all of you Berniecrats in the district who saw the MisogynyLeaks posts or heard hushed rumors, but didn’t know what to believe, this is for you. For all of the Berners in my neighborhood who sweated blood and tears for our campaign because you believed in the integrity and good-heartedness of Bernie’s vision, this is for you.

A photo of Masha Mendieta from her Medium post.

The rest of the post provides a very detailed account of Mendieta’s working experience in the Sanders campaign, and how, according to Mendieta, Carmona was protected by other make Sanders campaign officials. Near the end of the post, Mendieta wrote this:

We all knew Arturo would book flights back home to California using the campaign travel agency despite it being against policy. We all know that the immigration policy he keeps touting as his pièce de résistance was actually the work of Erika Andiola and Cesar Vargas. In fact, we all wrote the policy memos. I can’t think of one he did himself while I was there. We all saw how he would demean the female staff, treat us like his personal assistants fetching things for him and doing his errands, while he never asked male staff with the same titles to do any of that. I remember being told by a Latino staffer that the first question Arturo asked when he hired me was: “Is she cute?” When I looked horrified, he clarified: “He asks that about all the women he hires!”

Erika Andiola

Andiola, who worked for the Sanders campaign and is part of Our Revolution now, corroborated Mendieta’s Medium post in a public Facebook post she wrote on March 31:

I have the responsibility to speak out because we HAVE to change the culture of sexism in this movement. I am so done. Here are some facts I do want to share with you all about CD-34 race. It took for Masha to speak out to get courage from many of us.

1. I was on this calls and yes, the stories Masha Mendieta tells are true.

2. There was a HUGE culture of sexism, at least in the Outreach Department (which was in fact headed by Arturo).

3. It would take so many stories to tell this, and honestly, I am so tired of trying explain how terrible and disempowering it felt to work in a world of men who didn’t respect me and my work or other women. It takes a lot of stories for people to believe in what we say because it could be for “political reasons”. Trust me, they are not. Arturo is great on immigration and Latin American policy, and if it wasn’t for my experience in the camp, I would have 100% been behind him.

4.Don’t go that far. Just look at the FEC reports and learn who was making the most $ in Latino Outreach. Every single man in the department made more than ALL the women. Most of the women were hired as interns. Just ask around. What happend to the “women of color make less than 60 cents to the dollar of a male” is wrong? Who knows.

5. In full disclosure, I do work in the Political Department for OR, which was asked to endorse over and over again. I am also really good friends with Wendy Carrillo and can tell you that I do want an amazing woman of color in power, but can prove to ANYONE we took this endorsement through the whole process and was ultimately decided by the board not do engage. Neither we OR Bernie have endorsed.

It’s not easy to speak out about this, but man! It sucks and it’s tiring to fight in a world where it has been normalized to support “progressive man” who might not take $ from corporations, or are not racist, etc… but if they constantly take credit for the damn hard work we do as women, feel entitled to positions for being white dudes, don’t respect your work… (can go on). Than it’s ok by a lot of people in the movement because we gotta “win”. Not gonna work that way. Should not work that way.

Another public Facebook post by another former Sanders staffer, Giulianna Di Lauro, also corroborated Mendieta’s post:

Waking up to this article by my hermana and comrade Masha Mendieta has my stomach in knots. I’m experiencing so may conflicting emotions, that I am still processing. I feel so proud of Masha for having the bravery to speak out against this. But my overwhelming emotion is shame and disappointment with myself. You see, I was that staffer Masha spoke about, that was sexually harassed by a surrogate in Nevada. To this day, it is still one of the most infuriating and dis-empowering things I’ve ever experienced. I was on the call in which I and others reported our experience. I didn’t speak about it publicly, because I didn’t want to hurt the movement. I also witnessed and experienced Arturo’s machismo while working for him on the campaign. When I heard he was planning to run for congress, I felt so conflicted. I wanted to speak about my experience, because as a Congressman, this man was now going to be representing thousands of people and directly influencing their lives. This was no longer just about me, and my unfortunate experience. But I chose to stay silent. The thing I hate about politics are all the scandals that distract people from the real issues. I didn’t want to get dragged into anything, and did everything I could, privately, in my personal capacity, to ensure people knew of my experience, and that of many others. But this is a HUGE issue. Although I’ve done a lot of internal work, I still have internalized inferiority from being a woman, and I haven’t done nearly enough to combat it. I am still fearful. Fearful of having my traumatic experiences dismissed or minimized, fearful of reprisal for ‘derailing’ a powerful man’s high profile political campaign. The truth is, I wasn’t selfless and brave enough. If I truly want to enact social change and fight against sexism and misogyny, I have to speak up against institutional sexism. It’s a system in which men belittle and put woman down, take credit for their work and ideas, cover up or condone sexism and harassment, and continue rising up to the highest levels of power and leadership. I often think of myself as a strong woman, but I’m not strong enough. If it weren’t for woman like Masha Mendieta speaking out, I would have stayed silent.

Not surprisingly, the Mendieta post quickly circulated throughout Latino social media circles, catching the attention of Lucy Flores, a former Nevada assemblywoman who was a national surrogate for Sanders and is now a vice president at mitú.

Lucy Flores’ public Facebook profile photo.

Right after reading Mendieta’s post, Flores posted the following public post on her Facebook page and linked to Mendieta’s post:

While I was a surrogate for Bernie in Nevada, I only worked briefly with Arturo Carmona before he was “demoted up.” Like most people who aren’t playing inside baseball, I also believed he was doing such a good job that he was promoted to a national director position. And as a Latina, that made me proud. The campaign ended and we all went about our work in fighting to uplift Bernie’s ideals that we all believed, and continue to believe in, so strongly.

Then I worked with Arturo for a short time at mitú. After that brief experience, I feel like I should be pleased that this is happening to Arturo after making mine and others’ lives hell, leaving me with all of his disasters to clean up, acting dismissive of me and other women in demeaning and sexist ways, treating us as if we were there to serve him, among all his other personal and professional misbehaviors, but this doesn’t make me happy at all. It makes me profoundly sad that because of the inherit sexism and misogyny in our society, that this guy is just allowed to move on, job to job, harassing and demeaning women, doing incompetent work and misusing funds, and never in a day worrying if anything he is doing is going to affect his future job prospects.

I am supposed to be “brave” and be an “advocate.” I’ve been described as courageous and fearless. I’m Fierce Flores.

But I kept my mouth shut too – only disclosing enough in private to block as many endorsements as possible. But that was the weeny way out. I rationalized that I was doing my part in doing what I could to keep this terrible person out of Congress. I didn’t stop to think that he inevitably was just going to move on to another job he probably already has, only to continue degrading and harassing women, and doing more incompetent work. I didn’t stop to think of the misery he had already caused for so many other women and the misery he would cause in the future. I didn’t stop to think that it wasn’t enough to just speak privately, but to also speak openly. Our communities deserve good people who believe in the righteousness of service and true progressive justice for all. But the people won’t get that until progressive leaders do what this young lady did, and stop promoting this demoting up culture that exists in our political system, and stop sweeping sexist behavior under the rug.

Masha Mendieta, you are the brave one. As a leader, I still have so much to learn. Thank you for teaching me a valuable lesson today, and I am so sorry that I didn’t have the courage to speak up when I should have.

Later on March 31, Carmona posted the following public post on his Facebook:

Arturo Carmona with his mother and daughter (Via his Facebook campaign page)

Today, there have been several serious accusations made against me, and I would like to tell all my friends and supporters that while I take these claims seriously they are categorically false, and misleading.

I fiercely deny any accusations of sexual harassment or fiscal mismanagement made against me. And I do not take this lightly. It was never my intent to get into a social media rabbit hole that takes us away from the issues facing our local residents and nation, however I have to state that I have documentation that disproves specific accusations.

As a manager over the last decade, I have always taken issues of harassment and equity in the workplace with the seriousness and sensitivity that they deserve. I have never shied away from working with, hiring, or working under strong and talented women and members of diverse communities.

During the Bernie 2016 campaign I managed a large and diverse staff over several departments and whenever questions or criticisms emerged, we dealt with them within the leadership team. Was the campaign perfect? Of course not. There were broader systemic issues that I had little control over. But I led with integrity and an uncompromising focus on improving the economic and social conditions of my community. That’s why I joined this campaign and hired the best folks that I could.

I have worked in the social justice movement for nearly 20 years–with folks just like me and with folks very different from me–but I have always been open to finding solutions to criticism and to learning to grow as a leader. But it is very unfortunate that such important issues are currently being subject to political maneuvering.

For the past few weeks my team, my supporters and my campaign have been on the receiving end of direct and indirect attacks to our character, and to our movement. We have spent our campaign focused on highlighting the hypocrisy of the Democratic Party, the massive amounts of funding that they receive from corporations, billionaires and self interested groups. We have been successful at highlighting these issues with depth, with substance and with integrity. We have never attacked on character, only on the issues. We will continue to do so.

The politics behind these accusations don’t escape me, especially considering how close we are to Election Day. Accusations of this nature that come 4 days before such an important election by vocal supporters of my opponents have to be seen and understood as part of a smear campaign against the momentum we have built and the message that we have elevated.

We will continue our work. And we will continue reaching out to voters, to residents getting displaced by gentrification, families fearing ICE and deportation, and households that are struggling to make ends meet. This election is not about me. That is why I’m committed to finishing what I started. I’ll be out knocking on doors, making calls, talking to my neighbors in Congressional District 34 up until and after Tuesday, April 4. This is who this race is really about.

Ni un paso atrás.

In solidarity and humility,

Arturo

The LA Times also covered this story, adding the following from Carmona’s campaign manager:

Javier Gonzalez, Carmona’s campaign manager and another former Sanders campaign staffer, said he had heard about some of the allegations Mendieta raised and has “great respect” for Andiola, but he wishes she hadn’t aired her feelings so close to the election.

He called the accusations “serious” but said, “I don’t know what Arturo’s role was in any of that.”

“If you’re brothers and sisters, you deal with it in a friendly fashion, and you do it with honey,” Gonzalez said. “To smear someone at the last minute with a little bit of ‘he said, she said’ is not the way to do it.”

email

Leave a Reply