A new poll shows a Republican candidate in a highly contested swing district in California is leading by 10 points over her Democratic opponent -- who was endorsed by former President Barack Obama but whose candidacy was plagued by accusations of sexual misconduct.
Young Kim, a former representative in the California State Assembly, is leading Democrat Gil Cisneros among likely voters in California’s 39th Congressional District, according to a Monmouth University poll released Tuesday.
The support among the candidates is divided mostly along racial lines, with most Hispanic voters supporting Cisneros, who made his riches in lottery winnings, while Asian voters and non-Hispanic white voters are supporting Kim.
Both Kim and Cisneros aren’t well recognized by the voters, but the Republican enjoys a positive 32-11 favorability rating, while Cisneros is viewed unfavorably by 24 percent of surveyed voters and only 23 percent have a favorable view of him.
The district has been leaning toward the Republicans for years, electing Rep. Ed Royce by 14 points, though Hillary Clinton won the district by eight points in 2016.
The Democrats have targeted the seat in their “red to blue” program, providing organizational and financial support in a bid to flip the seat in the upcoming midterm elections.
The Cisneros campaign benefited from Obama’s rare campaign visit in California – even though the former president didn’t initially endorse Cisneros – where he stumped for him and other Democratic candidates who are running in Republican districts.
But despite the support, the Democrat is struggling to make strides in the polls, with some pointing to the accusations of sexual misconduct that were weaponized by Republicans.
A Republican group released an ad earlier this month that asserts Cisneros’ “time’s up” over the allegations of propositioning to a fellow Democrat and suggesting sex-for-donations to her campaign.
“Gil Cisneros thinks the rules don’t apply to him,” said Courtney Alexander, communications director of the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC that works to get Republicans elected to the House. “Gil Cisneros has been accused of sexually harassing a fellow California Democrat, inviting himself to her hotel room and demanding sex in exchange for campaign funds. California voters deserve better than Gil Cisneros.”
The ad stems from allegations raised by Democratic activist and documentary filmmaker Melissa Fazli, who ran an unsuccessful primary campaign for a state Assembly seat in California. She accused Cisneros of propositioning to her during the California Democratic Party Convention in San Diego in February.
Fazli accused Cisneros of seeming intoxicated during a conversation in an elevator about donations to her campaign, then asking her, “Should we go back to your room?”
Fazli claims she spoke with Cisneros over the phone again regarding the donations. Cisneros allegedly asked her, “What are you going to do for me?” in a suggestive manner.
“Either he wants me to be his spy or he wants me to have sex with him. After the encounter at the elevator in San Diego, I thought he wanted to have sex with me in exchange for a $4,400 donation,” Fazli said in a story posted on social media.
“I know there will be skeptics and people who will publicly flog me for coming forward, but I thought it was necessary to let people know what kind of man is Gil Cisneros, an unethical creepy man who is using inappropriate and bullying tactics to intimate others in order win a seat in Congress,” she added.
The Cisneros campaign, meanwhile, accused the woman of spreading false allegations against the candidate.
“Fazli falsely claims she and Cisneros had an ‘inappropriate encounter’ in an elevator around the ‘11pm hour’ at the San Diego Bayfront Hotel. She alleges Cisneros was intoxicated and propositioned her,” the statement from the campaign reads.
“The interaction between Cisneros and Fazli was witnessed by Thomas Rivera. Rivera confirms Cisneros’s account that he was neither intoxicated nor did he proposition Fazli,” the statement added, though without acknowledging that Rivera is a campaign staffer for Cisneros.