Protesting Tuesday outside of the office of the Lincoln Club’s campaign treasurer, about a dozen activists demanded that the conservative, pro-business political-action committee apologize for depicting Latino mayoral candidate David Alvarez as, they say, "a money-hungry gang member." The mailers show a frowning Alvarez casually waving stacks of $100 bills or holding a jar of cash.
“I am here with the members of the community in outrage over the Lincoln Club's recent racist mailers depicting David Alvarez as a menacing gang member,” said Laura Leavitt, a campaign organizer with the Courage Campaign, which organized an online petition shortly after the mailers went out.
The protesters said that roughly 14,000 people signed the petitions, blasting the mailers as racist.
“This type of cowardly and unethical messaging is referred to as dog-whistle racism, planting coded images and themes of racial stereotypes to conjure up fear of minorities, and it has no place in our politics,” Leavitt said.
Lincoln Club spokesperson Tony Manolatos denied the allegations of racism.
“There were no gang symbols that the Lincoln Club was trying to convey and that was corroborated by gang experts,” he said. “Look, we’re a pro-business political action committee. We sling mud, but we don’t sling that type of mud.”
The protest was a political stunt to benefit the Alvarez campaign, Manolatos added. “The mail piece was issued a month ago. It was vetted by the local media then. If [these protestors] were really concerned, wouldn’t they have been out here a month ago when this broke?”
More often than not, elections with a Hispanic candidate get “racialized,” University of Washington professor Matt Barreto told CityBeat in an interview last week about his recent poll of Latino voters in San Diego. “Sometimes it’s pretty obvious. Sometimes it’s more subtle. Sometimes it's references to parts of town.”
Another theme the Lincoln Club hit hard is Alvarez's promise at an October 2013 forum to target federal poverty-alleviation grants to San Diego's poorest neighborhoods. Lincoln Club mailers have incorrectly suggested that, if elected, Alvarez would deprive other neighborhoods of the funding and instead give it to City Heights, San Ysidro and southeastern San Diego.
Barreto said he hadn’t seen the mailers in question, but that typically race baiting is aimed at white voters who might otherwise support a Hispanic candidate. “But then they start seeing these reminders and white moderates start to feel uncomfortable. They’re not quite sure they want a Mexican running their city.”
“These campaign consultants know this stuff,” he added. “It’s just how sketchy are they willing to be. Some will say, ‘We’re not going there.’ Others will say, ‘Look, we go here, and then we’ll win.’”