California Latino caucus chair quits after endorsement dispute
Assemblyman Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) was replaced Tuesday as chairman of the California Latino Legislative Caucus after he came under fire from members over his political leadership, including a dispute over a hotly contested race in Los Angeles County.
Mendoza said he would step down effective March 9. Assemblyman Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) was elected Tuesday by a super-majority vote as chairman of the 23-member caucus.
Mendoza said in a statement that he is resigning because he has decided to run for a seat on the Central Basin Municipal Water District, which he accused of "exorbitant" spending.
"As time is short to campaign for this seat, for which the election was recently moved to June, I don’t want to short change the Caucus, the constituents I currently serve or the constituents of the Water District by spreading my time too thin,'' he said to explain his resignation.
But sources familiar with the caucus’ internal discussions said some legislators had voiced concern that Mendoza was not raising enough money for its political action committee and other causes, and that a dispute over a Southern California political race brought the matter to a head.
In a letter to Mendoza last week, state Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello), the caucus’ vice chair, protested the leader's handling of an endorsement vote regarding the senator’s brother, Tom Calderon, who is running for the 58th Assembly District seat against Downey Councilman Luis Marquez. Mendoza has endorsed Marquez.
Sen. Calderon wrote that 16 caucus members submitted vote cards favoring an endorsement of Tom Calderon, which met the two-thirds vote threshold, but that Mendoza disallowed the endorsement after ruling they were not submitted in time and in the proper manner.
"It is of great concern that for Tuesday's endorsement vote you required members to be in attendance to vote --as opposed to sending in a vote card as has been the past practice -- required that they travel five city blocks to vote and finally restricting their ability to vote to a forty-five minute window," Sen. Calderon wrote. "The precedence of this action can only be interpreted as an attempt to limit the voting wishes of the caucus membership."
Mendoza's statement on his decision to step down made no mention of the endorsement dispute.
-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento