The decision by a politically powerful labor group to openly campaign against an embattled Los Angeles-area lawmaker drew a sharp rebuke on Friday from Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.
The Lakewood Democrat lashed out hours after the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California filed paperwork for a political action committee to defeat Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens). Garcia, who’s seeking her fourth term, took an unpaid leave of absence in February following allegations of sexual misconduct. She has denied the reports and an Assembly investigation remains underway.
Rendon didn’t criticize the labor group by name, insisting instead that the decision was driven by oil and gas industry interests.
"This is a thinly veiled attempt by Big Oil and polluters to intimidate me and my members. It is an affront to my speakership,” Rendon said in a statement. “We are proud of the work that the Assembly has done to increase jobs and wages while defending our environment. We will vigorously defend the members of our caucus from any ill-advised political attack."
A statement from the labor group, which sparred with Garcia last year on her effort to link new climate change policies with a crackdown on air pollution, said it had decided to “reverse” past support for her.
“The Trades have thousands of hard working members in Garcia’s district, and we look forward to lifting up another Democrat in the 58th Assembly to better represent them and their families,” said the statement.
The political action committee’s campaign finance filing on Friday listed nonmonetary “in kind” contributions from Erin Lehane, a public affairs consultant aligned with the building labor group. Lehane said she had begun “researching” Garcia in November. In January, a former legislative staffer accused her of groping him in 2014.
Lehane, who identified herself as a spokesperson for the labor group’s political action committee, said on Friday that she believed Garcia’s “hypocrisy threatened a movement that will dictate how much harassment and abuse my daughter will face in her work life.”
Garcia, who has been an outspoken advocate for women in the #MeToo movement, has complained that her political opponents helped fan the flames of the accusations. Through a campaign consultant, she declined to comment on Friday.
Rendon’s critique came on the heels of a full-page ad in The Times on Friday, partly paid for by the Trades Council, that criticized “well-funded ivory tower elites” who push proposals that hurt the oil and gas industry.
“We are the real jobs that fuel the real California economy,” read the advertisement.