Dolores Huerta: “Como se llama” Obama?

A Spanish-language ad praising Obama says Clinton disrespects Latinos; Huerta strikes back, charging Obama supporters with intimidating Clinton voters.

Topics: 2008 Elections,

Dolores Huerta: "Como se llama" Obama?

Barack Obama and Dolores Huerta. (Salon composite, Photos: WPN, AP)

LAS VEGAS, Nev.– On Thursday federal Judge James Mahan refused to block nine casinos here from serving as caucus sites. But the battle over the politics behind the lawsuit to stop casino voting goes on. The at-large casino precincts are only nine out of a planned 520 caucus locations, but they’ve been the scene of a ground war between the Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton forces that’s created new racial friction (after a brief truce in Tuesday’s debate), as Latino partisans of both candidates trade insults and charges of voter suppression.

The latest flare-up has to do with a Spanish-language ad sponsored by UNITE HERE, the parent organization of the powerful Culinary Workers Union, which endorsed Obama. If the ad was in English, it would be a bigger story. It opens with a voice saying ominously, in Spanish, “Hillary Clinton doesn’t respect our people,” and accuses her of being behind the lawsuit to stop the at-large caucus sites, and trying to disenfranchise Latino workers (For the record, Clinton was not behind the lawsuit, but some of her supporters were). “Unforgivable! Hillary Clinton has no shame!” (You can hear it here.)

On Thursday Latino Clinton supporters asked Obama to denounce the ad, and his campaign declined. Friday the Clinton camp escalated its complaint (and John Edwards, for the record, joined the chorus). In a conference call with reporters, Clinton campaign chair Patti Solis Doyle said, “I urge the Obama campaign to condemn this ad immediately.” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Clinton had “a track record second to none” in support of Latinos as well as unions.

But United Farmworkers’ Union co-founder Dolores Huerta went further, accusing the Culinary Workers Union of intimidating Clinton supporters and keeping them away from the caucuses. Union leaders are telling Clinton backers if they don’t vote for Obama, “they won’t get transportation, they will be fired,” Huerta said. She also argued that Clinton has a “cultural, political and social relationship with the Latino community, which Senator Obama does not have.” Latinos call Clinton “Hilaria,” Huerta said, adding derisively that they call Sen. Obama “Como se llama?” (as in “What’s his name?”)



Although charges that CWU members are “intimidating” Clinton workers have flown this week, they are anecdotal, and there has only been one documented, high-profile case of such mischief, first reported by the Las Vegas Sun. Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton says the charge was later “debunked” by the Sun, but that isn’t the whole story. Now the woman at the center of the debate, Paris Hotel and Casino worker Sylvia Antuna, says the Sun’s “debunking” got the story wrong, and she confirmed the original account of her intimidation by a union rep in an interview. The convoluted story behind her story, and the number of partisans who’ve gotten involved to confirm or dispute it, shows how intense the ground war has gotten here.

Antuna’s complaint was first brought to the Sun by Clinton supporter and Paris cook Marie Angers, and her son Matt DeFalco, who also works there. They told of watching Antuna be threatened by a CWU rep that if she didn’t support Obama, she couldn’t caucus. Sun reporter Michael Mishak did a story on their account, but according to Mishak, Antuna didn’t quite confirm it when he talked to her; she ultimately put the exchange between her and the Obama-supporting union rep down to “miscommunication.” CWU communications director Pilar Weiss attributed the conflicting stories to the fact that the union rep spoke Spanish — though, in fact, Antuna speaks Spanish, too. (Weiss did not return a call seeking comment on Antuna’s story.)

Pro-Clinton blogger Taylor Marsh picked up the tale, relying on Marie Angers’ account. But so far, Antuna has been silent since talking to the Sun. Reached by telephone Friday afternoon, at first she didn’t want to talk. “I’m just afraid to say anything,” she said. But then the CWU shop steward of 24 years agreed to tell her story.

“All I want to do is tell you how it went. The whole week [union reps] were coming to the cafeteria, trying to sign up voters, some independents, some Republicans, trying to get them to endorse Obama. I would try to eat, and it was ‘Obama, Obama, Obama.’ I’d say, ‘Leave me alone, I’m an independent, I don’t know who I want.’ But then I really wanted to go to the caucuses, I was confused about who I want to vote for and I wanted to experience it all myself. And they were making it sound like I had to register as a Democrat to caucus.

“So I finally said, ‘Can I please have a paper to change my party?’ I sat down and started filling out the paperwork, and the woman said, ‘Sweetie, you’re gonna support Obama, right?’ I said, ‘No, I’m undecided,’ and she said, ‘Well, you can’t go if you’re not supporting Obama.’ And she took the papers from my hands. It was so embarrassing, everyone had their eyes on me.

“Marie and Matt were sitting there and they said, ‘Sylvia, you don’t have to do that, anyone can go to the caucus.’ Even my actual boss had asked me if I wanted to go. But [the union rep] said, ‘No, honey, you can’t go, because you’re not supporting Obama.’”

When the Sun’s Mishak called Antuna, she says, “I didn’t know it was going to happen like that, he kept asking me, what do you mean this, what do you mean that? He twisted my words.” Asked if she said it was just a “miscommunication,” she insisted, “I didn’t say anything like that.” Mishak stands by his story, saying that it was clear Antuna “was upset by the incident” but that by the end of their conversation, “she portrayed it more as confusion than anything else.”

Still, despite Huerta’s claim of widespread voter intimidation by the CWU, I haven’t found another documented story like Antuna’s. Matt DeFalco says at Paris, the union is only helping Obama supporters register to vote and get time off work. He says he distributed Clinton leaflets in the Paris cafeteria after the Antuna incident “and people were like, ‘are you seriously passing those out here right now?’ People are being intimidated into voting for Obama.” But Mishak says he’s investigated every voter intimidation claim “the Clinton campaign has been pushing” and that nothing, except perhaps Antuna’s, deserves the term “intimidation.” He adds: “It’s surprising to me that people would be surprised a union would be saying to its members, ‘You have to endorse our candidate. We need to win.’”

Why so much attention to one story of intimidation at one of the nine of 520 caucus sites? Depending on the results Saturday, we’ll be puzzling that out for a long time. Two things seem clear: The caucus rules are an only-in-Nevada innovation that, upon close scrutiny, raise questions about fairness: Many people ask why Vegas Strip workers should have an easier time voting than Saturday workers in other regions. Equally clear, though, is the fact that nobody was raising those questions, at least not publicly, until the CWU endorsed Obama.

One of the biggest outstanding questions is exactly how many delegates the at-large precincts will be awarded. Former President Clinton complained that because of the state party’s formula, Vegas Strip workers’ votes could count “five times” more than everyone else’s. I asked the Nevada Democratic Party’s deputy executive director Kirsten Searer if that was true, and she patiently tried to explain the process to me. (The short answer is, it conceivably could be, but probably won’t be.)

In traditional Nevada precincts, the party awards delegates based on the number of registered Democrats, regardless of how many or few turn out. Because the casino precincts have no history of registered voters, the party decided to award delegates in a complicated formula based on turnout. Clinton’s claim, she said, is “based on an unlikely situation: that every Democrat registered turns out in the neighborhood caucuses, but that there’s low turnout in the at-large caucuses.” Searer sounded a little tired of the complaints about the process. “We had an open and transparent process,” she says, adding she was “surprised at the timing” of the lawsuit — six days before the caucus, after the CWU endorsement — given that the state party approved the rules last March.

No one knows what to expect on Saturday. Given how new the process is, officially Searer says the party looks to early Iowa caucuses for guidance on turnout — until 2004, when turnout grew in Iowa, roughly 10 percent of registered Democrats used to caucus. With 400,000 Democrats registered in Nevada, that means a turnout of 40,000. “Anything more would be gravy,” Searer said. In an expansive moment, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid predicted 100,000. For all the focus on the CWU endorsement, no one knows how many of its 60,000 members are registered to vote.

But after the battle over the UNITE HERE ad and the CWU’s moves, maybe the most interesting question about Saturday’s results will be how many Latinos turn out, and whom they vote for. Huerta’s comments seemed unfair to Obama; the UNITE HERE ad was clearly unfair to Clinton; we’ll get to see what Latino voters believe tomorrow. For her part, Sylvia Antuna says she no longer plans to caucus. “I think I’ll wait and vote in November. It’s too depressing.”

I’ll be covering the caucus at the Paris Hotel and Casino at-large site, and I’ll have more when it’s over.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>