CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Los Angeles Mayor and Democratic National Committee Chairman Antonio Villaraigosa is still facing questions about his handling of late changes to the Democratic party platform made this week, including from some delegates hailing from his own state.
Villaraigosa presided Wednesday over a vote to restore in the platform references to God and Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The chair declared the amendments adopted after three voice votes from a divided Time Warner Cable Arena audience, drawing objections and boos from some in the crowd who felt the ayes had not hit the two-thirds margin needed for passage.
Dr. Sota Omoigai, a delegate from the San Fernando Valley, was among those dissenting.
"(Former President Bill Clinton) later came out and said one word the Republicans don't understand is arithmetic. There was no arithmetic done when Villaraigosa declared it was two-thirds that had given the voice vote," he said. "...I believe that democracy needs to be practiced in all aspects of the platform. This position cannot be shoved down the party."
Omoigai, who doesn't believe the party should take a stance on Jerusalem as the capital, said it was "very clear" both in the arena and on TV that the vote was either evenly split or in favor of the nos. He called Villaraigosa a "pawn" of party leaders in the decision, but said it still affected his views of the mayor, who has signaled interest in running for statewide office.
Joe Romero, Jr., a delegate from Woodland, said watching on TV, it looked like Villaraigosa "couldn't account for" the two-thirds vote that was declared. He wished it had gone to a fuller vote.
"I think that would have been the democratic way," he said.
The changes came after the platform was the subject of push-back from some Jewish groups and criticism from Republicans. Villaraigosa, in interviews following the vote, said the amendments were added at the request of President Barack Obama and reflect the views of the party.
He told CNN news after the episode that he simply "wanted to make sure that every voice was heard."
He said he was "not sure" he heard two-thirds support on the first two votes.
"By the third time I knew that there was a two-thirds majority, so I called it," he said.
Some delegates thought Villaraigosa did the right thing. Susan Johnson, a delegate from Fremont, said the chair handled a difficult situation well.
"It was a change that needed to be made and action was taken, and the party did what it needed to do," Johnson said. "The bottom line is really that it should have been there. It made it clearer."
Anila Ali said the situation over the Jerusalem reference had been "misconstrued."
"We don't want it to be something about Muslims and Jews," said the Irvine delegate, who is Muslim. "It was an error, and President Obama looked at it and found that was an omission in error and he fixed it."
She said the discord was caused by delegates not understanding what was going on during the vote.
Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez also defended Villaraigosa, his cousin, calling the mayor's ruling "eminently fair."
"He was trying to ensure that every voice was actually heard and that every vote was actually counted," he said. "It would have been easier to just go with the first (voice vote) and go with the outcome, but he was committed to ensuring the result was reflective of the action."
Danville Delegate Jerome Pandell, who has family living in Israel but is not Jewish, said he supported the amendments but was not concerned about the earlier omissions. He called the platform an "academic exercise," saying the country's policy on the issue is what really matters.
"I think it's probably much ado about nothing," he said. "I'm glad I missed it."