On July 6, a formal complaint was filed by California state Assembly candidate Janani Ramachandran against the California Democratic Party, stating that there was allegedly a conflict of interest in the party’s endorsement of the wife of California General Rob Bonta- Mia Bonta.
In a special election that was held on June 29, Ramachandran and Bonta emerged as the top two vote-getters among a total of nine candidates. On August 31, 2021, both of them will face off in a special election to claim California’s 18th District Assembly seat in Northern California’s East Bay, which covers San Leandro, the town of Alameda, and West Oakland.
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If Ramachandran gets elected, she will become the first Indian-American woman in the California state Legislature. She will join Assemblyman Ash Kalra, a Democrat representing portions of the Silicon Valley, who is the only Indian-American in the state Legislature.
Before being appointed Attorney General earlier this year, Rob Bonta represented the area for as many as eight years. As Attorney General, Rob filled the seat vacated by Xavier Becerra, whom Joe Biden appointed as Secretary of Health and Human Services.
On July 8, two days after Ramachandran issued the complaint, the California Democratic Party formally announced its endorsement of Mia Bonta.
“The California Democratic Party is proud to endorse Mia Bonta for Assembly District 18,” Rusty Hicks, Chair of the California Democratic Party, was quoted as saying in a press statement.
“As a daughter of Puerto Rican activists, Mia knows firsthand what it takes to make equitable progress within our communities. From her drive to advance economic mobility among our most underserved communities to her lifelong dedication towards improving educational outcomes for low-income students – Mia is the leader we need in the California State Legislature,” he said.
As many as 71 per cent of the votes of the party’s endorsing caucus went to Mia Bonta.
Ramachandran, however, alleged that there were several irregularities in the process before the announcement of the endorsement. A last-minute endorsement vote to be held on July 5 — a national holiday — was called by the California Democratic Party on July 2, which, according to Ramachandran, was a clear violation of the party’s own rules. Ramachandran said that the vote was “rushed without due process and fairness to both sides.”
Ramachandran also pointed out that Mia Bonta and her mother were accused of forging signatures to ensure her name was on the ballot. She further referred to how they were still allowed to vote in the endorsing caucus even before the allegations against them were investigated.
Ramachandran also accused Rob Bonta of not disclosing his financial interests while campaigning for his wife, as the requirement demands. She accused him of appointing a number of his family members as well as a staffer of Mia Bonta as delegates for the endorsing caucus and putting pressure on them to vote for his wife.
Ramachandran was a former Oakland Public Ethics Commissioner.
“When the Republican Party works to suppress votes, we rightly cry foul. When the Democratic Party adopts a voting process that by definition denies full access, we should raise our voices as one to speak out for a fair and just voting process,” said Ramachandran in a press statement.
Ramachandran had earlier also alleged that Bonta had accepted money from special interest donors wanting to establish a cosy relationship with Rob Bonta. Terming it as “legalized corruption”, she claimed that the money was coming from gambling interests and the insurance industry.
“There are only two ethical choices – Mia Bonta must immediately return the special interest donations or Rob Bonta must immediately recuse himself from all decisions related to those donors,” said Ramachandran in a press statement.