Lori Saldana faces local party demand to apologize to Rep. Scott Peters or lose her elected seat on the Central Committee.
Lori Saldaña faced party demand to apologize to Rep. Scott Peters or lose her elected seat on the Central Committee. Times of San Diego photo illustration

Days after balking at demands that she apologize to Rep. Scott Peters and others, former Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña on Tuesday sent San Diego County Democratic Party officials an 830-word memo titled “Re:Social Media statement corrections.”

Text of Lori Saldana apology to San Diego County Democratic Party officials.
Text of Lori Saldaña apology to San Diego County Democratic Party officials. (PDF)

In short, she apologized.

“I am writing to apologize for using incorrect and misleading punctuation in a social media post in July,” she told the party’s Ethics Committee and executive board. “As a retired teacher, I understand the importance of using correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation in any writing, for clarity and accuracy.”

Saldaña also apologized for tweeting that a transcript of her recorded exchange with Peters at a Point Loma Democratic Club meeting was not made available to her. (She didn’t immediately notice its presence in her email.)

She said her change of heart came amid fears that she would be expelled from the county party’s governing Central Committee after being among six elected in the 77th Assembly District in March 2020.

“As a publicly elected member, I have a responsibility to [27,000] people who voted for me,” Saldana said Wednesday. “I don’t want them to be disenfranchised for a punctuation error. So I apologized for punctuation errors and for not seeing and responding to an email [with the club transcript] when it first arrived.”

She issued her apology statement by Tuesday’s deadline, but doubted the party could actually oust her.

“I used my response to point out that, under the California Election Code, there are only a few actions that warrant removal,” she said. “Punctuation errors and not checking email in a timely manner are not among those.”

As of Wednesday, she’s received no response from party officials.

“They are waiting for [party chair] Becca [Taylor] to return from abroad before taking action,” Saldaña said via email.

Still, Saldaña is pursuing complaints of her own — especially regarding the Peters’ campaign use of recording devices at the Point Loma club meeting on July 23.

She said an initial Ethics Committee hearing on her complaint would be Sunday, but on Friday it was put off a month.

But the genesis of the intraparty dispute still grates on Saldaña — when she couldn’t get Rep. Peters to decry what she and others saw as racist mailers sent to boost Janessa Goldbeck over San Diego Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe in their Dem-vs-Dem race to fill the vacant Nathan Fletcher seat on the county Board of Supervisors.

“The July request to Scott Peters, asking him to denounce racist campaign materials, was a reasonable one,” she said. “His staff’s response was not.”

Saldaña told Times of San Diego:

After breaking club bylaws by recording the Pt. Loma/Ocean Beach Democratic Club’s meeting, they chose to use that recording to attack my question and social media posts – but have not denounced the racist campaign materials.

Many members on the Central Committee have concerns about racist campaign ads, and introduced a county Party Resolution that passed unanimously in August, calling on all candidates and elected officials to denounce these ads. I hope Scott will do that sooner rather than later.

She concluded: “I am grateful for the support and encouragement of everyone who is working to hold people accountable for these types of racially biased and deceptive ads. Many have reached out to me, and also to Scott Peters and his staff. I hope the congressman is listening to their concerns.”

In her apology statement, she also served notice she’d make some demands of her own.

In July, she wrote, she told party chair Becca Taylor of several recent examples of “Code of Conduct” violations by other Democratic leaders.

“They are part of a yearlong effort of various Central Committee members to ‘gaslight’ me when I have requested budgets and financial documents to prepare for committee meetings, and began in early 2022,” she wrote. “The chair suggested I file a complaint against the offending parties, and I have done so, online and via email a few days ago, and look forward to your response and investigation.”

In earlier conversations with me, Saldaña singled out Ryan Trabuco for making online attacks on her and allegedly blocking her from joining the Clairemont Democratic Club — where she lives. Trabuco is the club’s secretary.

Tweets by Ryan Trabuco critical of Lori Saldana.
Tweets around May 2023 by Ryan Trabuco critical of Lori Saldaña. Screenshots via Saldaña

“I will not include details here,” she wrote party officials, “but I hope I can count on the committees to conduct a thorough investigation into my complaint, and engage in the equitable enforcement of party guidelines re: incivility, misinformation, insults, disparagement and inaccuracies, as you will see in images of various social media posts and club communications.”

Early Friday, Trabuco responded:

For over a decade, I have been the target of intimidation, harassment and unprovoked attacks by former Assemblymember Lori Saldaña — despite my purposefully choosing to not communicate with her, not engage with her at social functions, and having to block her number and on social media. She has now decided to continue this abusive behavior by dragging me into a matter that has nothing to do with me. 

Ms. Saldaña has constructed an outrageously false conspiracy theory suggesting that I am somehow to blame for a complaint filed against her for false statements she has made on social media. This abusive and dishonest behavior has to stop. 

I have exhausted every available means to keep away from this individual who has sought — on several occasions — to cause me harm. Now she is painting my efforts to protect myself from her abuse as related to the complaint filed against her. That is completely untrue. I ask that Ms. Saldaña cease this behavior and seek the necessary reflection that would lead to her treating fellow colleagues on the Central Committee as human beings deserving of dignity and respect — not as objects for her to torment and abuse.

As I did in my original story, I sought the opinions of a local Democratic leader (who supports Saldaña) and a keen observer of local politics (critical of Saldaña). Both requested anonymity.

The local leader sent a scathing 480-word critique of party brass that concluded: “Rather than asking for the resignation of Lori Saldaña, the Central Committee members should ask for the resignation in mass of the executive board and replace all of them with people who are aligned with their values.”

The keen observer said of Saldaña: “She did the right thing by apologizing for some of her actions and I commend her for that. Let’s call this dispute over. But forgiveness should work both ways. What hasn’t changed is her base level of bitterness; nothing good can come of it.”

Chair Taylor and Ethics Committee co-chair Lauren Bier didn’t respond to requests for comment. But I got a reply from San Diego Mesa College professor Carl Luna, an expert on local and national politics and leading proponent of civil civic engagement.

On Tuesday, hours before Saldaña sent in her apology statement, Luna called the squabble “an unfortunate consequence” of the local Republican Party having moved too far right and basically yielding the field to the Democrats.

“Now that the Democrats don’t really have major opposition in San Diego, they end up degenerating into internecine, political warfare which doesn’t serve the party or the people of San Diego,” Luna said. “At some point, they need a real leader to emerge, and sit the different factions in a room and say: ‘We’re of a common cause to solve real problems and not advanced personal political agendas.’

“Alas, such a leader does not yet appear on the horizon — one more thing [San Diego Mayor] Todd Gloria would be the natural person to step in. If you could team his own party and deal with a homeless problem, he might yet develop the political legs to go statewide and beyond.”

Updated at 2:28 p.m. Sept. 15, 2023