Tony Mendoza’s campaign to regain his seat in the state Senate encountered its first obstacle Saturday as local delegates at the California Democratic Party convention overwhelmingly rejected his bid for an endorsement.
Two days earlier, the Artesia Democrat resigned under threat of expulsion, after a Senate investigation found that he had likely sexually harassed at least six women, including four of his staff members, over the past decade.
Mendoza declined to address the delegates Saturday, other than to thank them for voting. Of the 45 votes cast, Mendoza received 10, while the remaining 35 delegates, including Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and his wife, voted for no endorsement.
“The voters in the district make this election, not them,” Mendoza, who is still planning to run, said in an interview. “I’ve got three months and a half to connect with my voters and let them know my message.”
After the results were read, Noemi Tungui shouted, “10 is too much! Time’s up!”
Though not a delegate in Mendoza’s district, Tungui attended the endorsement caucus in protest, carrying a #MeToo sign. She said she had experienced sexual harassment and abuse in her past and wanted to “show solidarity to the women who spoke up, who are so brave to speak up.” She called it “completely disgusting” that Mendoza could seek an endorsement after the results of the investigation.
“It makes no sense to me,” she said. “We’re a party that stands for women’s rights and we believe women.”
Zenaida Huerta, a 19-year-old delegate who participated in a leadership program under Mendoza in high school, helped organize the votes to block his endorsement. She said she intended it not as a rebuke against Mendoza specifically, but rather as a broader statement about elected officials who abuse their power.
“We deserve better,” she said. Candidates “can be right on the issues, but if they’re bad people, then why should we settle?”