Tuesday night, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla gave his first national interview as a senator-in-waiting on The Rachel Maddow Show. Listening to Rachel compare their backgrounds as California kids of modest means who graduated from MIT and Stanford, my stomach tightened.
The uneasiness returned Wednesday morning while parsing through the aftermath of Tuesday’s unprecedented presidential pardon spree. A newsletter from The Bulwark entitled, “Our ‘Law and Order President’ is a Fraud” had a warning:
“Never forget who the people are who say one thing and do another because that’s how our political system got broken, and our public square turned into a circus; because people pretended to believe the charlatans on their team, even when they knew better.” – Jonathan V. Last
The source of my anxiety was a mailer I received back in October from John Duran’s re-election campaign touting all of the endorsements Duran enjoyed. It was a “Who’s Who” of California Democratic politics. Secretary of State Alex Padilla was pictured front and center.
Why? Why would everyone from a scion of the Kennedy family to a statewide elected official, like Padilla, and our state assembly member Richard Bloom lend their thumbs-up and mugs to a local candidate with Duran’s rap sheet?
As recently as 2019, John Duran had been the center of a sexual harassment scandal that rocked the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles. Three chorus members had credibly accused Duran of inappropriate comments and touching that, according to one young man, had been “a traumatic and shocking experience.” Duran responded in print and radio interviews by blaming the #MeToo movement, denigrating one of his victims with a racial pejorative, and calling out his fellow council members’ personal lives.
I, myself, had publicly testified to the inappropriate referencing of a “booty call” by him during a message exchange while attempting to set up a meeting to conduct city business.
And then there’s the half a million dollars he cost the City in legal and settlement fees when the Grindr hook-up he hired as his council deputy with a six-figure salary sued the City for sexual harassment.
So, I’ll ask again, “Why?” Why did Alex Padilla endorse a candidate as flawed as John Duran? Did he think John Duran was the best candidate in the race?
Did Alex Padilla even know who else was running? Had he sufficiently informed himself about the dynamics of our local election so that when he placed his thumb on the scale, he did so responsibly with the best interests of West Hollywood’s residents in mind? In other words, did Alex Padilla know better?
With the corruption and self-dealing rife within the Trump administration and so much at stake for our country in this election season, why did Alex Padilla, Richard Bloom, Bobby Shriver, and all the rest endorse an unabashed sexual harasser? As standard-bearers of the California Democratic Party, did they consider the message they would send to the young men victimized by Duran and to their friends and family? To all the young men and women out there so victimized? Did they care?
Thanks in large part to our nation’s repudiation of corruption, Alex Padilla will now be a U.S. Senator. A circus, indeed!
“It’s time to carve out the rot and hold people accountable,” says The Bulwark.
Now that we’ve dumped Trump, can we afford not to?