David Garcia, the Democrat candidate for governor in Arizona, has vocally opposed Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, citing the sexual assault allegations against the judge. But last month, Sal James Rivera, a donor friend — and co-host for Garcia’s campaign events — was arrested for sexual assault, which allegedly took place after a Garcia campaign event.
PJ Media reached out to the Garcia campaign with multiple requests for comment (twice by email, giving four hours, and once directly on Twitter to Garcia’s communications director), none of which have been returned. The candidate is on record — and has paid to promote ads — opposing sexual assault in the clearest terms and applying that moral stance to the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh.
.@sjev0, @dg4az, Does David Garcia have a comment about the arrest of his donor and event co-host Sal James Rivera for sexual assault following his victory party? Given his position on Kavanaugh and #BelieveSurvivors, this seems rather important.
— Tyler O'Neil (@Tyler2ONeil) October 5, 2018
“Hi everybody, it’s David. I’m here today to say I believe survivors,” Garcia says in one video. “I believe women. I believe the 77 percent of sexual assault victims that stay silent. I’m here today to stand in solidarity with one voice, to say enough. I support you, I believe you. Thank you.”
Garcia has tweeted this video, with the hashtags “#BelieveSurvivors” and “#StopKavanaugh.”
— David Garcia (@dg4az) September 24, 2018
His campaign also shared the video on Facebook. He also spent money promoting this video as an ad on Facebook, reaching between 1,000 and 5,000 people.
He launched another such ad featuring women with similar signs, and one that explicitly said, “I believe Dr. [Christine] Blasey Ford,” Kavanaugh’s accuser.
Garcia has also denounced Kavanaugh as a threat to women’s rights, also tweeting the hashtag “#BelieveSurvivors.” He did this despite the fact that none of the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh has been corroborated by evidence or eyewitness testimony, and that Kavanaugh has emphatically denied each accusation.
This isn't just a Washington issue, this is a moral issue. Ducey has led the push to make Arizona the most anti-choice state in the country. We must hold our leaders accountable. We must fight for women's rights. #dg4az #BelieveSurvivors #StopKavanaughhttps://t.co/UWGygbG272
— David Garcia (@dg4az) September 26, 2018
Yet one of Garcia’s key supporters — a donor, a co-host for his events, and a personal friend and classmate of his wife — was charged with sexual assault and has confessed to the crime, begging his victim for forgiveness.
As ABC 15 reported, 49-year-old Sal James Rivera was arrested on September 25 and charged with sexually abusing a woman who was driving him home from a social gathering. According to police, Rivera became intoxicated at a party on the evening of August 28, at a restaurant near 16th and Van Buren streets.
After Rivera was “ejected” from the business, he got into an altercation with someone who prevented him from driving. An anonymous woman, who would become the victim of sexual assault, agreed to drive Rivera to his house.
The sexual assault victim told police that James Sal Rivera, who sat behind her in the car, pulled her hair and groped her. She told him to stop and pushed his hands away, but he kept abusing her, according to police.
The victim told police she “feared that Sal was going to become increasingly violent.” She pulled over at a convenience store, got out of the car, and called her friends. Witnesses told police that Rivera got into the driver’s seat and drove away.
Rivera later admitted to his actions and apologized to the victim, according to police. When he was arrested, the Garcia donor said he had no recollection of what happened or how he got home.
He has been charged with a Class 5 felony sexual abuse and a Class 3 misdemeanor assault.
What social event was Sal James Rivera leaving on the night of August 28?
It just happens that David Garcia had a primary watch night party that evening — at Roland’s Cafe Market Bar. Here’s a screenshot of the Facebook event.
Where is Roland’s Market? Why, right by the corner of 16th Street and Van Buren.
A Facebook Live video shows Sal James Rivera at the party, fist-bumping Garcia’s wife, Lori Higuera.
Sal James Rivera did more than just attend one party and allegedly sexually assault a woman from the party. According to the Arizona secretary of state, Rivera has contributed $3,350.00 to Garcia’s run for governor. He also contributed $350 to Garcia’s 2014 campaign for superintendent of public instruction.
He jumped on Garcia’s campaign relatively early, and is listed as a co-host on the flyer for an event in December of last year celebrating the candidate’s birthday. In order to become a co-host of that event, someone had to donate at least $1,000.
A University of Chicago Law publication from 1995 shows that James Sal Rivera and Lori Higuera attended the school at the same time.
If David Garcia believes survivors — even in Kavanaugh’s case, where there is no corroborating evidence, there are no witnesses, and the accused vehemently denies the accusations — he should publicly disavow his donor and his wife’s former classmate, Sal James Rivera.
Garcia has made sexual assault a political issue. If sexual assault allegations that are unproven and denied make Kavanaugh unfit to serve on the Supreme Court, sexual assault allegations Sal James Rivera has not denied should make him anathema to this champion of sexual assault “survivors.”
This is far from the first scandal Garcia has found himself facing in this election. In August, I broke the story of Xenia Orona, Garcia’s former digital director, whom the candidate hired despite her public tweets saying “F*ck you” to Arizona, calling America a “sh*thole country,” and denouncing “law and order” as a “smokescreen” for “hate.” Orona offered her resignation the evening after my story broke.
Later that month, I exposed Garcia’s attempts to hide the fact that his daughter went to a charter school, a salient issue considering the candidate’s opposition to school choice. On the subject of education, the candidate made more than $82,000 for teaching a paltry three classes this year, with a grand total of 52 students. To make matters worse, the candidate campaigned with an activist who said of the “racist dirtbag John McCain,” “I’m not sorry he’s gone.”
Despite all this, Garcia has racked up Democratic endorsements. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) endorsed him this week.
.@SenWarren has spent her life fighting for working families recently introducing historic legislation confronting America’s housing crisis. She’s an honest voice for the people fighting against Trump’s agenda. It’s a privilege to have her support. #dg4az #Vote Nov. 6th. pic.twitter.com/GF2EDbzFf8
— David Garcia (@dg4az) October 4, 2018
Notorious democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also endorsed him this week.
It’s a tremendous privilege to have @BernieSanders endorsement! He & I share a vision for all people – not just those at the top. We know the dream of college is out of reach for far too many & no one has been fighting harder for working families & w/ more integrity than Bernie. pic.twitter.com/7or6RfacLW
— David Garcia (@dg4az) October 2, 2018
Former president Barack Obama also did so.
It’s my honor to receive the endorsement of @BarackObama! Lori & I have looked up to him & the First Lady since our days at the Univ. of Chicago. I’m grateful for his support as we travel across AZ communicating a positive, hopeful vision ensuring opportunity for every AZ family. pic.twitter.com/9YqNb7FmCX
— David Garcia (@dg4az) October 1, 2018
Garcia has run an identity politics campaign, even going so far as to declare that someone with his last name should win the election, due to his race.
While Garcia has not explicitly attacked the venerable legal tradition of the presumption of innocence — innocent until proven guilty — his rush to judgment against Kavanaugh suggests he agrees with Democrat senators who have declared that the judge does not deserve the presumption of innocence.
Once again, Garcia’s campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Sal James Rivera from PJ Media. The candidate should literally put his money where his mouth is, renouncing his donor and refunding the money — or he should drop his relentless attacks against Kavanaugh, a man who denies the uncorroborated sexual assault allegations against him.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.