The Santa Clara County Democratic Party is accusing a local candidate of using misleading campaign flyers to make it appear he has the party’s endorsement—when he doesn’t.
Party Chair Bill James issued a cease-and-desist letter earlier this week demanding San Jose Planning Commission Chair and District 5 City Council candidate Rolando Bonilla stop using logos of the Democratic Party in campaign materials. James noted the mailer purports to be a “Democratic Voter Guide” and lists Bonilla and several other Democratic candidates. The party endorsed Santa Clara County Board of Education President Peter Ortiz as the preferred candidate for the District 5 seat.
“I think it’s fair to candidates who are endorsed by the Democratic Party and to members of our Democratic Party to have our name and logo used only by candidates who have earned our endorsement,” James told San José Spotlight.
James added the use of a capital “D” in a circle logo is the actual logo of the Democratic Party and is a federally registered trademark.
Bonilla did not offer a response about the cease-and-desist letter. He did not say whether he would remove the logo from his mailers.
“I’m a proud Democrat, that’s proud to be endorsed by many Democrats in my district,” Bonilla told San José Spotlight. “That’s it.”
This is Bonilla’s latest clash with local Democratic organizations. The party voted last month to ask Bonilla to drop out of the council race after decades-old allegations about domestic abuse resurfaced. The Silicon Valley Democratic Club and Silicon Valley Stonewall Democrats passed similar resolutions.
Bonilla has denied the allegations, saying they are the result of an ugly divorce and custody battle. The Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate, Ortiz ,also has a checkered incident in his past: an arrest in 2012 in connection with a strong-armed robbery. The charged were dropped after Ortiz promised to sever ties with a gang and comply with community rehabilitation and periodic check-ins. Ortiz has spoken publicly about this experience and said he regrets his actions.
Bonilla was accused last December of inappropriately using his title as planning commissioner on door-hanging flyers that listed COVID-19 resources. The flyers included a link to a website used by his campaign. A city policy updated in 2020 says commissioners can only use their titles in resumes and public communications about commission work.
Bonilla is competing with several others to replace Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco, who terms out this year: Ortiz, former Assemblymember Nora Campos, Alum Rock Union School District Board President Andres Quintero and small business owner HG “Hanh Giao” Nguyen.
Editor’s Note: Perla Rodriguez, Bonilla’s spouse, serves on San José Spotlight’s board of directors.