Quetcy Lozada fumed over an alleged set-up in Kensington forum
Lozada accused her opponent, Andrés Celin, of planting a volunteer in the audience to bash her exclusively in front of the audience. Celin denied wrongdoing.
Residents in Kensington had an unusual opportunity to hear from a mixed pool of political contenders on Monday, May 9, when Kensington Voice hosted some mayoral candidates alongside the two contenders vying for the District 7 City Council seat.
The conversation was quick to turn sour when City Councilmember Quetcy Lozada publicly accused her opponent, Andres Celin, of planting a member of the audience to lambast Lozada over her perceived absence in the neighborhood and not addressing the district’s most challenging blights.
It began as a private scuffle between the two, who sat on the leftmost side of a table that included mayoral candidates Amen Brown, Jeff Brown, James DeLeon, and David Oh — none of whom are the reported frontrunners in the Democratic primary.
The lead-up to the emotional flare was tense and provoked others at the forum to intervene and ask moderators to continue the program.
An audience member who introduced herself as Cynthia, a returning citizen, attempted on several occasions to direct a question toward the nominees, but was stopped by moderators, explaining that community members should first submit questions to them as part of the format that evening.
Moderators would then call on the submissions and permitted community members to ask their questions directly.
When Cynthia’s turn arose, she began by complimenting Celin, then turning her attention toward Lozada, “who I do not endorse.”
“My question to you is why when I came out of prison there were no resources… in your district where you were never seen or heard of and I don’t know what you were doing,” Cynthia said, while also directing comments at Brown about his embattled mandatory minimum sentencing bill.
After posing her initial criticisms, Cynthia went on to question Lozada over disheveled lots, though which remain unclear. Cynthia was not available for comment after the forum concluded.
Lozada attempted to answer the question, generally addressing her efforts through partnering with block captains to “clean up many lots,” and said her official term began in January. Her swearing-in ceremony took place in November 2022.
But her answers were met with further interruptions from Cynthia, who lodged further accusations at Lozada, at one point pointing to the councilmember: “We don’t like you.”
The comments created a tense dispute between Lozada and Celin, who were seen arguing quietly as other candidates tried to answer the question. But the contents of the conversation were not immediately clear. Until Celin spoke up.
“I just want to clear the air,” Celin told the audience and asked Cynthia, who repeated some of her sentiments, to respect the format.
“The councilmember just told me I was being disrespectful for bringing someone here to criticize her. Cynthia is someone that has supported our campaign… but I want to be clear, that I have not done this.”
The panel moved on to other questions shortly after Celin spoke. But Lozada, who had left the forum early, told the audience that “since the beginning of this campaign, I’ve been respectful. I’m respectful to Mr. Celin and to other candidates because on May 17 we have to be neighbors. We have to work with one another.”
And she didn’t shy away from further accusing Celin of creating a forum brouhaha.
“I find it very disrespectful when people bring people to meetings with this type of nonsense…I ask you, think of what people have done before they got here, to Kensington, to ask you for their support.”
In a separate interview, Celin and James Cersonsky, his campaign manager, dispelled comments over alleged efforts to bring a supporter to bash Lozada.
“Cynthia was not asked to come, and we did not coordinate anything with her,” he said.
“She has been actively supporting this campaign but we did not coordinate that nor would I ever put someone in a meeting…[Cynthia] was not respecting the process,” Celin said.
Lozada and Celin, both competing for District 7, sought to distance themselves from controversies that bore tension between their campaigns.
Still, in the months preceding the primary, it was all but quiet, with legal challenges, fundraising criticisms, and concerns over recent, possibly illicit campaign tactics that contributed to the evening’s events.
But amid the slow-churned political tension, neither candidate has named the other, claiming amiability because they’ll have to coexist after May 16.
With only seven days before the primary election, it is expected that apprehension between the two will boil.