The election for the 34th Congressional District – taking place today to fill the vacancy in the Los Angeles district that Xavier Becerra previously represented – is the first congressional race since Donald Trump assumed the presidency. As such, it’s been thrust into the national spotlight. This is especially because, as the Los Angeles Times explains, it could offer clues about the future of the Democratic party. With many seeing CD34 as a showdown between establishment Democrats and those whose politics fall more closely in line with Bernie Sanders, it could determine whether the party’s ready to move in a more progressive direction. The race is now garnering even more attention as one of the candidates is facing sexism allegations. With just days ahead of the election, several women, all former colleagues, have denounced Arturo Carmona – one of the 24 candidates – for his alleged sexist behavior.
Misogyny Leaks – which began posting on Facebook on March 27 – shared leaked emails highlighting Carmona’s inappropriate behavior. This reportedly prompted Carmona’s team to reach out to Masha Mendieta, the former National Latino Outreach Strategist for Sanders’s presidential campaign, who felt uneasy after the phone call. “While the call had an air of pleasantry, there was a distinct undertone of intimidation and sharing despite his own admission to knowing about Arturo’s behavior,” Mendieta, who worked with him on the campaign, wrote on a Medium blog.
When she went online to see the general reactions to what Misogyny Leaks had revealed, she found that many defended him and once again treated the accusations of women with derision.
“It seems women are always told to wait their turn – for elected office, promotion, a raise, respect, rights, even for belief in our word,” she wrote. “We criticize sharia law for now allowing women’s testimony without corroboration by a man because women are seen as inherently untrustworthy, but in the American social sphere, are we that different? How often do you catch yourself believing the word of a man over that of a woman when it comes to reputation, recounting of events, stating of facts in conversation? Do you have that extra nagging doubt whenever a woman vocalizes a claim?”
Mendieta went on to give detailed explanation of Carmona’s sexism and mismanagement. For example, a male staffer told her that when Arturo hired her, he asked if she was cute. “When I looked horrified, [the staffer] clarified: ‘He asks that about all the women he hires!'”
But it didn’t just stop at misogyny. Mendieta recalls that a few people wanted to quit within the first few days of working on the campaign because he poorly managed the team. Instead of feeling like a cohesive unit, they worked separately. She also accused him of using campaign funds to fly back home to California and credited activists Erika Andiola and Cesar Vargas for coming up with the immigration policy he takes credit for. All the while, some of the campaign’s decision makers protected him. Instead of firing him, they demoted him up, so that he no longer interacted with the staffers in Latino Outreach and they allegedly made sure that Bernie never learned about Carmona’s behavior.
Fearing retribution and long-term career damage, Mendieta had never spoken out publicly before. But now her story has given other women the courage to speak out against Carmona. Since then, Lucy Flores, Giulianna Di Lauro, Erika Andiola, and Mariana Ruiz have written their own posts, which echo Mendieta’s sentiments. Many of them apologized for not speaking out sooner, and similarly said they felt afraid that they’d ruin their careers or distract from the work they were trying to accomplish. Because society labels them troublemakers or liars, women too often feel unfairly pressured to keep quiet about misogyny.
But with Mendieta speaking out, others wanted to show their solidarity and stop the cycle of sexism. All of them praised Mendieta for making the first move. “I often think of myself as a strong woman, but I’m not strong enough,” Di Lauro wrote. “If it weren’t for [a] woman like Masha Mendieta speaking out, I would have stayed silent.”
Carmona has denied the claims, arguing that they’re “categorically false, and misleading.” But with more than 40 people – both men and women – calling for organizations and individuals to recant their endorsement of Carmona, these are accusations that can’t continue being swept under the rug.
CD34 election takes place today from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Here’s everything you need to know.