Republicans are hoping that a progressive version of the Tea Party is about to takeover the California Democratic Party, a radical shift the GOP views as good for its chances of finally becoming relevant again in the Golden State.
The state Democratic Party convention held recently in San Diego certainly gave the Republicans hope as the progressive wing of the party dominated the action.
Aside from promoting a series of radical policies, they managed to give the back of their hand to Senator Dianne Feinstein, a long-time liberal stalwart who operates on the quaint notion that you have to find common ground with your opponents to get anything done.
They denied Feinstein their endorsement as she seeks a fifth term in the U.S. Senate, and made it clear they prefer her primary challenger, state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon. De Leon tried to take the moral high ground in his short but well received speech to the delegates.
“Real leadership, moral clarity, is always doing the right thing, even when no one is watching,” he said. “It should never take a primary challenge for California’s leadership to stand up for
“I’m running because California’s greatness comes from acts of human audacity, not congressional seniority. Who do you trust to have the courage of your convictions.”
So, what exactly was de Leon doing in the state Senate when nobody was looking? You can–and I will–make the case that he showed no vision or leadership when it came the issue of sexual harassment in the chamber he leads.
Take the case of de Leon’s former roommate and long-time buddy, former Senator Tony Mendoza. According to an investigation that led to Mendoza’s ejection from the state Senate, he routinely encouraged underaged interns and other young women who worked on his staff to drink alcohol and spend time alone with him.
Apparently none of this behavior set off alarm bells when de Leon was sharing a house with Mendoza in Sacramento. It took the investigation of an outside law firm to remove the blinder from de Leon’s eyes.
Of course, he’s never been much of a leader when it comes to fighting the sexual harassment of women who work for the state Legislature, or who have to do business with legislators and their staffs.
Teaming up with Senator Ricardo Lara, chair of Senate Appropriation Committee, de Leon routinely killed legislation sponsored by Republican Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez that would protect state employees who blow the whistle on sexual predators.
Melendez has introduced the legislation annually since 2014, and every year it was killed in committee. It happened again this session before it was abruptly revived, passed both houses of the legislature, and signed into law by the governor.
The about-face by Democratic leaders came as the #MeToo movement spotlighted sexual improprieties in the Capitol. Women have accused three Democratic legislators of misconduct, leading to two resignations and one suspension.
If de Leon wants to mount a serious challenge against Feinstein, he doesn’t need an anchor like failure to address sexual misconduct to drag around. He made an effort to put the issue behind him by releasing Melendez’s bill and calling for expulsion of his old buddy Mendoza.
Both actions came just before the release of substantiated sexual harassment claims against legislators and high-level employees where “discipline has been imposed or allegations have been determined to be well-founded,” according to legislative leaders.
Senator Connie Leyva probably summed it up best when she said: “There has been a clear lack of transparency, accountability and trust in how the legislature handles issues of sexual harassment. Retaliation is one of the biggest barriers for women and men who want to file a complaint about sexual harassment. The legislature must lead by example.”
We now know how de Leon acts when nobody’s paying attention. His progressive supporters may want to give that some serious thought before they decide who they’re going to back for the U.S. Senate seat.