Political people who say bigoted crap on the internet tend not to last too long in politics. Witness, for instance, the case of Ethan Czahor, recently let go from Jeb Bush's presidential campaign because of his racist, homophobic and misogynistic comments on twitter and on his personal blog. Some observers were uncomfortable, perhaps not without justification, that a campaign staffer was being held to such an accounting for views he shared as a college student. But what if the person who spewed the online bile isn't just a campaign staffer, but is currently the mayor of a city with 200,000 people? And moreover--if you were running for office yourself, would you want to tout the endorsement of someone who had posted some of the vilest filth that YouTube comments have to offer? Doubtful, unless you're former Assemblymember and current State Senate candidate Anthony Portantino.
Before we continue, let's meet the mayor in question: Zareh Sinanyan, who last year became the mayor of Glendale, a city nestled between Los Angeles and Pasadena in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. As a candidate for city council back in 2013, Sinanyan had gathered an impressive amount of support from elected officials: not just Portantino, but also Los Angeles Councilmember Paul Krekorian, former Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel, and current Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was at the time City Council President. In early March, however, an enterprising local blogger discovered that Sinanyan had, over the preceding several years, left a vile history of racist, sexist, homophobic and Islamophobic comments on YouTube. And by vile, I mean vile. For example:
When the story broke, most elected officials distanced themselves from Sinanyan and withdrew their endorsements. One exception? Anthony Portantino. There is no record from any media outlet anywhere of Portantino withdrawing his endorsement of Sinanyan in the wake of the latter's disgusting diatribes.
Now, maybe a more forgiving person would just assume that Portantino missed the whole scandal. Not likely, given how well known it was that he was preparing for a run for the 25th State Senate District. So why am I bringing it up now? Because Portantino just sent an email to his list containing a video announcing endorsements from local mayors. And on that video is none other than Zareh Sinanyan of Glendale.
So why bring it up now? Honestly, I haven't been keeping up with politics in the San Gabriel Valley. The Sinanyan scandal occurred in March of 2013, when I was knee-deep volunteering on Eric Garcetti's run for mayor of Los Angeles. Before that video, I didn't even know that Sinanyan had won a city council spot in spite of his racist rants, much less that he had been appointed mayor. But Portantino of all people should know better than to have accepted and promoted Sinanyan's endorsement. Back when I was the campaign manager for Speaker Emeritus John Perez' campaign for State Controller, I often found myself going head-to-head at endorsement meetings with Portantino, who was supporting Perez' opponent and current Controller Betty Yee. Portantino would argue that much of his support for Yee was owed to his desire to see a woman in statewide office to set a positive example for his daughters.
I don't disbelieve him in that. But the least he could do would be to set a good example himself--not just for women, but for the LGBT community and all the people insulted by Sinanyan--by rejecting this endorsement, rather than sacrificing his principles for political expediency.