Cárdenas Easily Wins Re-election to Congress Despite Sexual Misconduct Allegation

Political candidates held election parties throughout the state Tuesday evening.  Several Southland political candidates celebrated either outright victories in the June 5 primaries or making it to the November runoff elections. But one incumbent candidate —  Rep. Tony Cárdenas — opted not to have a public celebration. 

Cárdenas, 55, a Democrat, was running for a fourth term in Congress representing the 29th District, which is based in the Northeast San Fernando Valley and includes the communities of Arleta, Pacoima, Panorama City, San Fernando, Sylmar and Van Nuys, as well as parts of North Hollywood and Sun Valley. 

Other candidates in Tuesday’s race included Democrats Joe Shammas, Republican Benito Bernal, the Green Party’s Angelica Dueñas, and Juan Rey, an Independent. Cárdenas was expected to have little trouble in defeating all four. And he easily outdistanced his competitors, winning 67 percent of the vote (28,098), according to the LA County Department of Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office. Bernal was the next closest vote-getter at 17.8 percent (7,483).

The congressman did make an appearance at the election results viewing party of state Assembly (39th District) candidate Luz Rivas, a Democrat, who was the top finisher among six candidates with 12,908 votes (42.2 percent). She will face Ricardo Benitez, a Republican, in the November runoff. Benitez collected 7,860 votes (25.7 percent) to finish second. Cardenas has been a major supporter of Rivas. 

“California is sending a strong message that in this state we respect everybody, we don’t say bad things about immigrants,” Cardenas said at the party. “And in November we’re going to get elected those people who are going to send a strong message that this is a state that is very diverse and very welcoming to people from all over the world.”

But an accusation of sexual abuse of a minor by Cárdenas hovered over his campaign, although it did not stop voters from returning him to office. Calls and emails to Cárdenas’ campaign representatives from the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol on Wednesday seeking comment on the election results were not returned. 

The congressman was named in a lawsuit first filed on April 27 alleging the molestation of a teenage girl. The alleged encounter reportedly took place in 2007.

At the time of said allegation, Cárdenas was a LA City Council member, an office he held from 2003-2011. He was first elected to Congress in 2012.

Cárdenas — who was the first one to reveal he was being accused in the lawsuit on May 3 —  and his attorney, Patricia Glazer, have vigorously denied the allegations by the plaintiff identified only as Jane Doe, describing them as “baseless and reckless.” Glazer has also been quoted describing the woman who filed the suit as the daughter of a “disgruntled former employee” and “may be the victim of manipulation.”

Cárdenas was called upon to resign by various opponents, including Los Angeles Unified School Board member Kelly Gonez, and  former state Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, especially after an LA Superior Court judge ruled that there is “a reasonable and meritorious basis” for the lawsuit to proceed. 

Cardenas actually had a better outcome Tuesday than in the 2014 primary, when he totaled 61.4 percent of the vote. He still had to face Richard Alarcon in the general election, but won handily.

— Mike Terry