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San Diego Judicial Candidate Sparks Controversy With Facebook Posts

Judicial candidate Shawn McMillan speaks at a forum Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020,...

Credit: Photo: Matthew Bowler; Inset: San Diego Democrats for Equality

Above: Judicial candidate Shawn McMillan speaks at a forum Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, hosted by the San Diego chapter of the Black Political Association of California. (Inset) Screenshots of memes candidate Shawn McMillan acknowledged to KPBS that he shared on Facebook.

San Diego County Superior Court judicial candidate Shawn McMillan is under fire for sharing posts on Facebook that, among other things, have sexist, racist and transphobic themes.

Some of the posts he shared mock transgender people. One advocates arming everyone. Another suggests how to get rid of immigrants living in the country without legal permission. And still, another, labels former President Barack Obama a racist.

McMillan, 53, who describes himself as a civil rights and plaintiffs lawyer, acknowledged in an interview Wednesday with KPBS that the posts are "insensitive," but nonetheless stood by them.

“I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t do it,” McMillan said. “It’s there. I did do it.”

He said he shares these missives to spark a conversation and that they don’t always reflect his views.

“Had I known before November that I would be jumping into politics ... I might have been like all the other candidates and kept all my views secret and hidden from everybody," he said.

McMillan said the posts, which were first revealed by the website San Diego Democrats for Equality, have since either been deleted or moved to his private Facebook page.

Reported by Amita Sharma , Video by Matthew Bowler

McMillan is one of 11 judicial candidates running for four open seats on the San Diego County Superior Court bench. He is competing against Deputy District Attorney Michelle Ialeggio for Office 36. If either garners more than 50% of the vote in the primary, that candidate will win the election outright. If neither gets at least 50% plus one vote, there will be a runoff in the November general election.

The San Diego County Bar Association has classified McMillan as lacking qualifications to be a judge.

McMillan spoke to KPBS minutes before a forum Wednesday on bias in the judicial system. The forum was hosted by the San Diego chapter of the Black Political Association of California. It focused on discrepancies in charging, convicting and sentencing people based on race and class.

Among the posts McMillan shared was one that stated: “I was asked, `Are you happy with a racist president?’ I said, ‘Absolutely not. We replaced him with Donald Trump.’”

RELATED: Need Help On How To Vote For San Diego Judges? Bar Association Offers Guidance

He said that sentiment still resonates with him.

“That’s my view,” McMillan said. “I think Obama did more things to create division, cultural division in our country than he did to heal. And that’s not what we need. We need a lot of healing.”

When asked whether Trump’s references to mostly African nations as “shithole countries” and his characterization of a 2017 white supremacist rally and counter-rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, as having "very fine people, on both sides" were healing, McMillan said he was unaware of those comments.

“I swim in a very small pond,” McMillan said. “And generally speaking I don’t really see what’s going on in the world.”

But he does share posts about other national topics.

Photo credit: San Diego Democrats for Equality

A screenshot of a meme candidate Shawn McMillan acknowledges to KPBS he shared on Facebook.

For example, he shared a post by the Minuteman Militia. It contains photos of Monica Lewinsky, former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and California Senator Kamala Harris along with the message: “When Nobody Knew Who You Were, Until You Got On Your Knees.”

McMillan referenced Harris’s romantic relationship with California Democratic powerbroker and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.

“I thought it was funny, I thought it was interesting,” McMillan said. “You heard the news about her and Willie Brown bandied about and all that stuff.”

Regarding gun control, he shared a post by PJ Media, a right-wing blog, that said: “To Reduce Gun Violence, Arm All Americans.”

Photo credit: San Diego Democrats for Equality

A screenshot of a meme candidate Shawn McMillan acknowledges to KPBS he shared on Facebook.

”I own guns, I absolutely own guns,” McMillan said. “It’s a fundamental individual right, for sure.”

On the issue of gender identity, McMillan shared a message showing two $1 bills and the script: “If I had a dollar for every gender there is, I’d have two dollars and a bunch of counterfeits.”

“Realistically, it’s a mechanical issue,” McMillan said. “How many genders are there?”

McMillan also posted this message: “Stop all welfare to illegal aliens and they’ll deport themselves.”

But McMillan said that doesn’t mean he’s anti-immigrant.

“My wife is an immigrant,” he said. “My sister-in-law is an immigrant. She’s from Mexico. They’re all legal immigrants. I absolutely support immigration. That is the lifeblood of our society and culture. But there are rules that people have to follow.”

Just before Wednesday's forum, Kamaal Martin, political action chair of the San Diego branch of the NAACP, slammed McMillan’s posts.

“Disgusting, absolutely reprehensible and abhorrent,” Martin said. “We understand what’s at stake and we will not allow people like this to fly below the radar and receive the votes of not just people of our community but anyone’s community.”

But Martin also gave McMillan points.

“I applaud his candor,” he said.

Listen to this story by Amita Sharma.

Election 2020 news coverage


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Photo of Amita Sharma

Amita Sharma
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs an investigative reporter for KPBS, I've helped expose political scandals and dug into intractable issues like sex trafficking. I've raised tough questions about how government treats foster kids. I've spotlighted the problem of pollution in poor neighborhoods. And I've chronicled corporate mistakes and how the public sometimes ends up paying for them.

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