The Democrats in San Jose want the candidate to end the city council campaign

April 12, 2022

Local Democratic groups are calling on San Jose planning commission chairman Rolando Bonilla to end his city council campaign amid decades of allegations of domestic abuse.

Last week, the Santa Clara County Central Democratic Committee voted 36-7-6 to ask Bonilla to stop his proposal for the San Jose District 5 District Council and resign from the city’s planning committee.

The call to end his campaign follows similar decisions made a few weeks earlier at Silicon Valley Democratic Club, one of South Bay’s longtime Democratic clubs, and Silicon Valley Stonewall Democrats, who represent the region’s LGBT community.

The clubs were concerned about the re-emergence of family abuse allegations made by Bonilla’s ex-wife in 1999. During a custody battle over their son, she claimed that Vanilla was physically and verbally abused while she was pregnant – accusations that Vanilla vehemently denied.

Bill James, chairman of the Santa Clara County Central Democratic Committee, said he understands the community will never know the truth, and the vote was held with family abuse survivors in mind.

“Given that it can not be resolved, it’s a question of what will happen next,” James told the San José Spotlight. “If the accusations were false, and his denial completely true, I acknowledge that there was unfairness towards the candidate. However, consider the fairness towards the many survivors of domestic violence in the 5th District.”

He said about one in eight voters is someone who has experienced family abuse, so the focus should be on them.

“These survivors need to have a representative that they can be absolutely sure is aligned with them,” James said. “We do not have enough resources in the city to deal with domestic violence. We do not have shelters and other support services, and advocates are active on an ongoing basis and bring these requests to the city council. And we just do not.

Bonilla told the San José Spotlight that he understands why the vote was held, but claimed the allegations were false. He said the allegations are the product of a bitter divorce and a difficult custody battle.

“I understand that some of the women who voted were themselves victims of domestic violence,” Bonilla said. “Even though they do not accept my truth, I am not angry with them, as I know in their hearts they are trying to stand up for women to ensure that no one will have to endure the trauma that comes with such a malicious act. I pray for their healing and that they will find peace and comfort in their lives.”

James said the seven abstentions and six abstentions were from older committee members who expressed concern about the decision because the charges have not been proven and are about 20 years old, and because of Bonilla’s denial. He said he could not tell San Jose Spotlight who the votes were because the committee did not record members’ votes.

Michelle Dauber, a law professor at Stanford University and a well-known women’s rights activist who led the charge behind the Recall Persky campaign, helped write the first decision made at the Silicon Valley Democratic Club. She did not hesitate to call for Bonilla’s resignation. Her efforts led to the return of Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky in 2018 after a response against a six-month sentence he gave to Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner for sexual assault.

“These allegations of serious abuse of his pregnant wife are extremely serious and in my opinion Bonilla owes the women of this province full and genuine accountability of all the facts,” Dauber told the San José Spotlight. “He had many opportunities to do so, but he did not. At this point I think he should stay away from public life unless and until he does.”

Contact Jana Kadah at jana@sanjosespotlight.com or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

Editor’s note: Perla Rodriguez, Rolando Bonilla’s partner, sits on the San Jose Spotlight board.


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