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Latino Groups Accuse Conservative Organization Of Using Racist Mailers Against Alvarez

Present.org's Refugio Mata leads a protest against a mailer sent out by the conservative-leaning Lincoln Club, Feb. 4, 2014.

A lot of trees have gone into campaigning for San Diego’s special mayoral election. So many political mailers clog up our mailboxes that they tend to blur together; the positive ones a flurry of testaments to unity and pothole fixing, and the negative ones: mostly unflattering and photoshopped images of the opposed candidate.

Aired 2/5/14 on KPBS News.

Latino groups are claiming a conservative group is using racist mailers to target City Councilman David Alvarez, but the group said the mailers aren't racist.

Special Feature The Race For San Diego's Next Mayor

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But one mailer stands out, at least to a couple of groups of national and statewide Latino activists. The organizations presente.org and the Courage Campaign have said a recent mailer sent out by the conservative-leaning Lincoln Club is using subtle images of mayoral candidate City Councilman David Alvarez to suggest that he is a gang member.

In the mailer, unflattering photographs of a scowling Alvarez are photoshopped onto the body of a guy flashing what some say is a gang sign and gripping a giant wad of cash.

Presente.org’s Refugio Mata said this is an example of dog whistle racism. That is the kind of racism that plays on coded messages to drum up hidden and underlying stereotypes.

Mata said in the day and age of political correctness, this kind of racism is the most insidious. “This kind of dog whistle tactic is even more perverse than overt racism. Because when you look at it, you might at first not think that it's racist, ” he said.

Credit: Working Together for Neighborhood Fairness

A Lincoln Club-sponsored mailer sent during the 2013 special mayoral primary election that Latino groups allege is racist.

But Mata said make no mistake, “because of the history that is there, because of how stereotypes have been used to put down, humiliate, to dehumanize, people of color—especially brown people and Latino people.”

Mata said these images suggest that any brown person can instantly be conflated with being in a gang, even a successful and up-and-coming young politician like Alvarez.

The Lincoln Club is not known for subtlety in its advertising. In the first leg of this mayoral battle, the group photoshopped pictures of then-mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher tipping back champagne, trying to emphasize a playboy image for the man who had switched political affiliations twice in the same number of years.

On Tuesday, a handful of protesters from presente.org and the Courage Campaign showed up at an event they promised would be outside the Lincoln Club’s headquarters.

The only problem: they got the location wrong, showing up instead outside the offices of Lincoln Club treasurer April Boling (she is also the treasurer for mayoral candidate City Councilman Kevin Faulconer’s political campaign). After a brief skirmish with some other business owners in the building, the police were called and the protesters dispersed.

City Councilman Kevin Faulconer at the KPBS mayoral debate.

Despite the wrong address, are they right to say that racism is dogging the campaign?

Tony Manolatos, a spokesman with the Lincoln Club, said the answer is a definitive no.

He called the whole event a last-minute “desperate political stunt.” He does not deny the mailers were attacking Alvarez and supporting his rival, Faulconer.

“Look, we’re a pro-business political action committee. We sling mud, but we don’t sling that type of mud,” he said.

It’s not the first time the issue of gangs has come up during an Alvarez campaign. In 2010, when he was running for the city council District 8 seat he currently holds he faced off against Felipe Heuso. Heuso is the brother of the former District 8 Councilman Ben Heuso.

Special Feature Follow The Money

In 2012, San Diego mayoral candidates raised more than $11 million to compete in the primary and runoff elections. Now, they’re at it again — follow along as we follow the money.

In a KPBS debate, Hueso accused Alvarez of being part of a gang element: “It’s a very well known fact the Alvarez family is part of the gang problem, part of the drug problem,” he said.

Alvarez's life story is of staying clear of the gangs and drugs that cropped up in his home turf of Barrio Logan. His older brothers were involved in that culture, but Alvarez kept his nose clean, becoming the first in his family to graduate high school and then college.

His older brothers, Alvarez said, have since turned their lives around.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story spelled April Boling's name incorrectly.

Comments

Avatar for user 'MaoTzu'

MaoTzu | February 5, 2014 at 9:06 a.m. ― 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Racist wingnuts? Oh never...

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | February 5, 2014 at 9:57 a.m. ― 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Not sure why Alvarez wants the job. If he wins, the San Diego Tea Party's membership will increase 10,000-fold overnight; demand he prove his citizenship; then, obstruct him every chance they got until his term ended.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | February 5, 2014 at 10:46 a.m. ― 2 months, 2 weeks ago

DLR, let them - the more active tea party people become, the more hypocritical, illogical, racist, and out of touch they look to everyone else and the more they will be dismissed as the fringe trouble-makers they are.

I say trouble-makers as opposed to activits, because they really don't present any doable ideas or stand for anything of substance.

They are more a group founded out of hate who just wants minorities and liberals or even moderates to fail.

It's fascinating actually, a, "activist group" whose ideology is based on nothing - just name calling and talking about how awful certain people of different races or ideologies are even though they do the same things their own tea party candidates do.

Ridiculous.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | February 5, 2014 at 10:50 a.m. ― 2 months, 2 weeks ago

"....have said a recent mailer sent out by the conservative-leaning Lincoln Club......

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"conservative-leaning"?

They are full-on tea-party hard-right michelle bachmann-style crazies !!!!!!

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | February 5, 2014 at 10:53 a.m. ― 2 months, 2 weeks ago

By the way, I'd actually like to thank the Lincoln Club.

By doing this race-baiting they are actually mobilizing Latinos as well as non-Latinos who are just disgusted by their slimy tactics to turn out and vote for Alvarez.

This puts soon-to-be Mayor Alvarez one step closer to being elected.

Thanks Lincoln Club Boys !

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | February 5, 2014 at 11:08 a.m. ― 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Put the brakes on PDSD.
Just like there are people associated with every party who go off-platform and give the public the wrong impression, there are tea party members who have lost sight of the core tenet of their policy, which is fiscal stability with a side order of limited government. The fact that some of them are also anti-(abortion/gay/muslim/etc.) does not imply all, or even a majority of the tea party holds such views.

q.v. the wiki intro here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_Part...

Not everybody thinks all democrats are idiots even if some of them don't understand that Guam won't tip over if you station troops on it.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | February 5, 2014 at 11:44 a.m. ― 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Ah, so they DO admit to mudslinging!

"Not everybody thinks all democrats are idiots even if some of them don't understand that Guam won't tip over if you station troops on it."

No, but it DOES go against the cut-spending philosophy of the Teebirchers.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | February 5, 2014 at 1:28 p.m. ― 2 months, 2 weeks ago

What exactly goes against whose philosophy? Who are the "Teebirchers"?

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | February 5, 2014 at 3:30 p.m. ― 2 months, 2 weeks ago

SHAME ON KPBS!

For trying to legitimize politically motivated accusations of racism.

Where is the gang symbol? NOWHERE but the imagination of Refugio Mata.

What actually IS racist is Present.org and Mata.

Take a look at "UndocuMemes" that Mata promotes on Present.org: http://www.facebook.com/UndocuMemes

THAT IS CLEARLY RACIST!

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | February 6, 2014 at 10:03 a.m. ― 2 months, 1 week ago

CD,

I agree with your oblique point: People should be careful to not become what they hate. Bigotry is not the answer to bigotry. However, there's a difference between reactionary bigotry and institutionalized racism. The burden of the institutionalized kind is not on Latinos. Not even close.

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Avatar for user 'Fil'

Fil | February 11, 2014 at 4:04 p.m. ― 2 months, 1 week ago

“Look, we’re a pro-business political action committee. We sling mud, but we don’t sling that type of mud,” he said.

No more comments need to be done... :)

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