Women Leaders Condemn Democratic Women of the Desert for ‘Harm’ Toward Women

INDIO —A month after the Nov. 3 election, Mujeres Advancing for Advocacy & Success (MALAS) and a coalition of women leaders from throughout the Coachella Valley are calling out Democratic Women of the Desert for a series of recent actions they say are harmful to women, including attack ads against two local women candidates — Denise Delgado and Lesly Figueroa.

Some say there has been a growing pattern of actions harmful to women.

Figueroa sought the Coachella mayor’s post in the Nov. 3 election. She was unsuccessful. Delgado won a seat on the City Council.

Palm Springs Mayor Pro Tem Christy earned the group’s endorsement when she ran four years ago, but not this year,

Democratic Women of the Desert Under Siege

Mayor Pro Tem Christy Holstege

“I don’t know why,” Holstege told Uken Report. “It sounds like they had a process. I wasn’t included in it. Typically, groups will reach out to all of the candidates on the ballot and go through their endorsement process. I wasn’t contacted by them. I reached out to them and didn’t hear back about their endorsement process or the possibility of endorsement.”

Holstege said she signed on to the letter to share that it’s incredibly difficult to run as a female candidate, especially in some of these places where it’s traditionally been men.

Signing onto the letter was important to share that it’s very difficult to run while female,” Holstege said. “We face significant barriers, even as Democrats and in Democratic spaces. For there to be one group, Democratic Women of the Desert, to support Democratic women running for office, they are not doing that. And actually for them to issue an independent expenditure attacking women on that ad. I don’t know.”

Holstege said it’s one thing to have a mission of supporting female candidates, but she said she has seen a pattern of them “failing to do so.”

“They failed to endorse Ginny Foat when she was running to be the first female mayor of Palm Springs, Hollstege said. “They endorsed Rob Moon over her with no explanation. “How that is consistent with their bylaws? It’s not just about this race and this year. They’ve had a pattern and practice for many, many cycles of not supporting women when they have the opportunity to do so. But to actually issue attack ads against women who are running is just totally unacceptable in politics in the Coachella Valley.  It was important to call that out and call out their organization and ask them if they’re really truly supporting Democratic women here.”

Former Palm Springs City Councilmember Foat declined to comment for this story.

The group is also under fire for how it doled out campaign contributions.

Women leaders say the organization made certain campaign contributions to some of its endorsed candidates — and other candidates — leading up to the election. Of those donations, five went to local candidates, only three were women. Those direct donations were all for the equal amount of $500 until the Club added an additional late contribution of $1,250 to Erin Teran a few days before the election. In other words, the Club made only $2,750 in donations to local women candidates in the fall 2020 election.

In stark comparison, the women leaders allege the group spent $6,584 (reported as $2,194.66 per man) in allegedly independent expenditures supporting three local men candidates for office in Coachella. If that monetary disparity wasn’t already bad enough, a large portion of the expenditures — radio ads — were made and produced specifically to disparage two women candidates (Denise Delgado and Lesly Figueroa) with disgraceful untrue and damaging comments about their veracity, according to Jacqueline Rubalcava-Lopez, MALAS Co-Founder.

In a letter dated Nov. 25 and signed by signed by 50 female residents of the Coachella Valley, including nine former, current or newly elected female leaders and 41 female residents, they say, “It is our position that the organization (DWD) does not any longer represent democratic and progressive women in this region. Instead, it has become a form of reinforcement for establishmentarian and patriarchal politics for which we have no use, and which is harmful to our communities,” the letter stated.

The signatories encouraged DWD and its leaders (which are nearly 50% men) to re-think and reformulate their mission and actions to become truly supportive of women and “the priorities of women” in the future.

“Men are not our enemies,” Amalia DeAzatlan, president of Democratic Women of the Desert, told Uken Report. “Some have asked that our charter be removed, Do they not understand we are helping them?”

In the past four years, Democratic Women of the Desert has endorsed 16 females and contributed $19,130 to their respective campaigns, DeAzatlan said. In the same timeframe, the group endorsed 15 males and donated $9,950 to their campaigns.

“Look, we know that Patriarchy is defined as a social system in which power is held by men,” DeAzatlan said. “But does that mean that any attempt by men to be a part of the feminist movement is a perversion of its original meaning? Men with our values are our allies.

Let’s face it, DeAzatlan said, all electeds become the establishment – so I imagine then the women who signed the letter will not accept endorsements or contributions for their races from those men or electeds right here in Coachella Valley that formerly supported them.

“One thing for sure — the forensics accounting of percentages and contribution amounts are way off,” DeAzatlan said.  “Since the numbers are public, I am concerned that some of the signers are in public office.”

DeAzatlan said, DWD’s history shows that we have contributed funds to the campaigns of Jackie Lopez, candidate for Indio City Council, Coachella City Councilmember Megan Beaman-Jacinto, Palm Springs City Councilmember Christy Holstege,  Palm Springs City Councilmember Grace Garner, Palm Desert City Councilmember-Elect Karina Quintanilla, Mary Jane Sanchez-Fulton, candidate for COD Trustee , Erin Teran, candidate for Indio City Council, Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes, Dr. Alisha Wilkens, candidate for Temecula City Council, DeniAntionette Mazingo, candidate for Hemet City Council, Councilmember, Coachella City Councilmember Josie Gonzalez, State Senator Susan Rubio, and Joy Silver, candidate for CA State Senate in 2018 and 20.

“For 2020,  we endorsed qualified female and male candidates we felt were aligned with our mission, and we made this opportunity available to any candidate who reached out to us,” DeAzatlan said.

Some say there is bad blood between Joy Silver, political action chair of Democratic Women of the Desert. Silver sought the 28th state Senate District seat in a special election and lost to Elizabeth Romero. It was Silver’s second failed attempt and many Democratic leaders supported Romero.

The mission of Democratic Women of the Desert, under charter from the County Democratic Central Committee,  is dedicated to promoting social, economic and political policies that reflect the priorities of women. It does this in part by actively recruiting women of all ages to become DWD members; and raising campaign contributions for candidates who support DWD’s mission.

But the group fell far short of that mission, according to the letter which is signed by 50 female residents of the Coachella Valley, including nine former, current or newly elected female leaders and 41 female residents.

“As women who support women, we are very disappointed by Democratic Women of the Desert’s recent violations of the integrity of their stated mission, which has caused harm through disparate representation and semiotic violence against local women,” Rubalcava-Lopez said. “In particular, the attack ads produced by DWD disparaged two local women candidates with disgraceful untrue and damaging comments about their veracity, while stating support for their male opponents.”

Democratic Women of the Desert Under Siege

Karina Quintanilla

“The $500 they gave me, I gave to Denise (Delgado) and Lesly (Figueroa) when I heard the ad in English,” Karina Quintanilla, who made history by being the first Latina elected to the Palm Desert City Council, told Uken Report. “I was beyond outraged that an organization tasked with supporting women would do something so reprehensible.”

In a prepared statement, MALAS Co-founder Megan Beaman-Jacinto said, “DWD can decide for itself what actions will best remedy the harm it has caused to local women. Our intent here was and is to call out damaging actions toward our sisters, to provide support for our communities, and to continue building leadership around this region.”

Signatories to the letter included elected and other community leaders from throughout the Coachella Valley. You may read the letter and see who the signatories are by clicking here.

Image Sources

  • Christy Holstege: Christy Holstege
  • Karina Quintanilla: Facebook
  • Election Day 2020: Shutterstock