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Candidates in race to replace Becerra complain of 'dirty tricks' in state party endorsement of assemblyman

Wendy Carrillo is one of six candidates who issued a joint statement complaining of "dirty tricks" in the California Democratic Party endorsement process. (Ray Pok / Wendy Carrillo for Congress)
Wendy Carrillo is one of six candidates who issued a joint statement complaining of "dirty tricks" in the California Democratic Party endorsement process. (Ray Pok / Wendy Carrillo for Congress)

Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez received the endorsement of the California Democratic Party in a vote by local party delegates over the weekend, and his opponents are not happy about it.

Several of the candidates competing against Gomez in the 34th Congressional District issued a joint statement Monday alleging "dirty tricks" by state party operatives.

"What the Democratic political establishment is telling us is, 'We know best. We know what's best for the people of Los Angeles. No debate, no discussion needed here,'" read the joint statement signed by Vanessa Aramayo, Arturo Carmona, Wendy Carrillo, Ricardo De La Fuente, Raymond Meza and Michelle "Hope" Walker.

The controversy centers on a meeting that took place Sunday at a youth center in El Sereno, where a select group of state party delegates who live in the district met to discuss and vote on the endorsement.

But only a couple of delegates actually showed up to hear from the candidates and vote in person, with the vast majority of ballots cast by mail before the meeting, according to the statement.

The fact that nearly half of the 103 eligible delegates didn't turn out to vote highlights "the type of backroom corrupt deals that still dominate" the county and state parties, the statement said.

The candidates urged supporters to contact state party officials directly to object. The arguments echo the kind of anti-establishment fervor that supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders displayed last year.

State party rules allow members of an endorsing caucus to vote in person or by mail, and stipulate that more than 50% of eligible voters must vote to proceed with the endorsement.

Mike Shimpock, a consultant for Gomez, denied the accusations that his client received any unfair advantage.

"The rules on how these elections are conducted, just like any other election, are pretty clear and long-standing," Shimpock said. "We worked hard, and they got outworked and they lost. It's troubling that they would try to delegitimize the very party that they want to represent."

In a regular election year, candidates would have the opportunity to challenge a state party endorsement if they gathered signatures from 20% of delegates in the district.

Because of the accelerated timeline of the April 4 election, however, Gomez's endorsement can be challenged only if there's concern that the party's bylaws were violated, and only then if the state party receives letters from 20% of the local delegates within two days of the result.

Daraka Larimore-Hall, secretary of the California Democratic Party, defended the party rules.

"We have a process, it's fair, it's transparent. Some people win it and some people lose it, and those who lose it very often turn around and decry the process," he said.

Larimore-Hall, who has endorsed Gomez in the race, said the party's rules are the "product of decades of debate" among activists and party officials, and have "evolved to be more inclusive and more responsive."

Updated at 5:15 p.m. to include a statement from Larimore-Hall.

For the record: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated the endorsement caucus occurred Saturday.

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