San Diego’s Democratic Party Leadership Needs to Take Its Head Out of the Sand

by on October 24, 2017 · 0 comments

in San Diego

Last weekend’s San Diego County Democratic Convention was a success on many levels. Candidates spoke, networks were built, and the party faithful came away full of hope for the future. The mechanics of the event went smoothly.


There was just the nagging question of you-know-who, who stands accused of doing you-know-what. [Editor: The mess left by UFCW President Mickey Kasparian’s split from the Labor Council and the women who accuse him of sexual harassment.] A handful of demonstrators held banners near the entrance to the California Center for the Arts, reminding attendees that this issue wasn’t going away anytime soon.

Ten thousand dollars bought a lot of silence at the Democratic Convention. With the unfolding scandals concerning sexual misconduct and harassment by powerful figures in entertainment, politics, and labor, you’d think the local party might have doubts about cashing a check from San Diego’s poster child for allegations of such conduct.

Additional coverage of the San Diego County Democratic Convention, along with plenty of pictures, can be found here.

It’s impossible not to notice something’s happening. Women are speaking out about sexual harassment.

Sacramento, home to the most progressive legislature in the land, is seeing a large number of women come forward with stories exposing a culture of sexual harassment in the Capitol. There are stories of being propositioned, groped and assaulted by male colleagues and bosses, including lobbyists and legislators.

Hundreds of female lawmakers, lobbyists, consultants and political staffers have signed an open letter calling for an end to these behaviors and demanding more accountability.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

The turning point for women at the state Capitol was a scandal unfolding more than 300 miles away. Hollywood women were talking about sexual abuses they say they suffered — in silence — at the hands of Harvey Weinstein, the powerful film industry mogul who could make or break careers.

The powerlessness those women spoke about and the culture of harassment struck a chord with women in and around the Capitol.

The letter, drafted by Adama Iwu, a state government relations executive for Visa, started the campaign to expose harassment at the Capitol. It was signed by more than 140 women on Oct. 13 — lawmakers, lobbyists and legislative staffers. Within days, more than 300 women had signed the letter.

This is not a partisan problem. Based on what I’ve seen lately, it’s safe to say misogyny is a bipartisan affliction. Today’s column focuses on Democrats and other would-be progressive allies.

Just up the road in Orange County, they’ve got multiple scandals piling up.

Allegations of sexual harassment have recently surfaced naming Erik Taylor stemming from his time as executive director of the Democratic Party of Orange County (DPOC).

He has since resigned as Democratic congressional candidate Phil Janowicz’s campaign manager.

Julio Perez, director of Orange County Labor Federation, was named in a statement by Danielle Serbin, the chairwoman of Orange County Young Democrats, pointing out that young women were posting messages as part of the Facebook #MeToo campaign accusing powerful party leaders of sexual harassment.

From OCWeekly:

The Orange County Register reported on incidents that took place between 2014 and ’15, including one of the men allegedly touching a woman’s thigh, prompting her to flee to safety in a DPOC headquarters supply closet, where he cornered her.

In another incident, the same man allegedly pushed his body against the woman and reached under her skirt and tried to remove her underwear. She says she did not report the incidents to police because she feared losing her job.

The OC Weekly article quoted Fullerton Democratic Party activist Barbara Nelson, saying she wasn’t convinced that the party’s pronouncements about changes in handling harassment allegations were sincere.

She pointed out Benny Diaz, who quit as an official with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), noting party leadership had known since June about misconduct allegations filed by several women.

“He still sits on the [Democratic] Central committee,” Nelson says.


Even the Fight for $15 campaign has been impacted. Service Employees International Union Executive Vice President Scott Courtney resigned Monday following a suspension brought on by complaints from staffers about his conduct toward women.

From Buzzfeed:

The complaints about Courtney had been an open secret among women in the high-profile Fight for $15 campaign within the union, which is itself led by one of the most visible women in US labor.

The SEIU lies at the heart of the US labor movement’s attempt to transform itself from a traditional trade union body into a broad force for social and progressive change for union members and nonunion members alike.

Courtney was suspended a week ago, based on preliminary information from an internal investigation looking into questions about potential violations of union policies concerning anti-nepotism and complaints related to sexual misconduct and abusive behavior towards union staff.


It’s been ten months since Mickey Kasparian, President of United Foodservice and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 135 was named in a complaint charging him with gender discrimination and retaliation by former union employee Sandy Naranjo

A few days later, retired union employee Isabel Vasquez filed a complaint alleging approximately 13 years of quid pro quo sexual harassment. Anabel Arauz, another union employee, went through several months of harassment and was eventually fired for speaking out in support of Vasquez.

Litigation brought all three women is proceeding through the courts. Depositions in these cases are already taking place, with court dates set for March.

Kasparian maintains his innocence. And it’s true, he hasn’t been found guilty of anything.

There is, however, a pattern of behavior. You could read his actions as those of a strong leader. Or you could say he’s got a problem with exercising his authority. Other unions accused the UFCW President of using his position to gain revenge over policy differences.

In the wake of a broader investigation by the AFL-CIO national offices, he broke away from the San Diego and Imperial Labor Council, forming a splinter group.


San Diego County Democratic Party chair Jessica Hayes quickly embraced the split-off, sending an email proclaiming “… the new San Diego Working Families Council will be a powerhouse from Day One.”

Party Central Committee meetings have been relocated in recent months, following picketing by supporters of the women accusing Kasparian, who call themselves Tres Hermanas.

The picketing began in part because the Democratic Party leadership refused to sanction even so much as an inquiry into the appropriateness of the charges.

One person attending the most recent Central Committee meeting described security as being like getting on an international flight.

So nobody was really surprised when news circulated about a $10,000 donation from the UFCW in support of the Democratic County Convention.

It’s as if there’s a Stockholm Syndrome in effect here.

While I think it’s wonderful that the Democratic Party is poised to mount challenges to Trump/Republican misrule, it is shameful for them to refuse to address their own malaise.

This could and should have been addressed months ago. At this point, it’s not about taking action. Every attempt at discourse on the subject has been shut down, blocked, or diverted.

The core of party activists in San Diego is women. The leadership of the local party is a woman. Yet this rot from within continues to fester unabated.

It is said some women of a certain age and social status tend to be dismissive of the whole sexual harassment thing. This perception must be challenged if the Democratic Party is to become relevant to the next generation of activists emerging out of the #Resistance.

I’m not talking about “purity” here. It’s about character. A great deal of what’s wrong with the country is connected to the blind eye getting turned anytime there’s money involved.

There are rumblings (from reliable sources) about harassment scandals soon to emerge concerning Democratic candidates running for seats in 2018 and 2020.

How long will the party stick their head in the sand?

This is from Doug Porter’s column at our media partners, San Diego Free Press.

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