Jews, others decry mailer emblazoned with swastika

An anonymous political mailer depicting a graphic photo of a swastika scrawled on a synagogue and text alleging San Francisco Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval is an anti-Semite on the flipside has elicited anger from both Jews and non-Jews.

“I’m not happy about this. I think it’s inappropriate. Such images shouldn’t be used indiscriminately,” said Gia Daniler, president of the Raoul Wallenberg Jewish Democratic Club.

“To associate Supervisor Sandoval with Nazi paraphernalia is, in my view, way below the belt … he has stood with the Jewish community on important issues in recent years.”

Sandoval took the issue to court, and, on Monday, Oct. 25, won a temporary restraining order against political consultant Duane Baughman and the Clymer Direct mail business. Judge A. James Robertson II ruled that the swastika mailers and several others violated campaign finance laws by failing to denote a sponsor.

Calls to Baughman’s San Francisco office were not returned.

Sandoval’s District 11 has been plastered with jarring political mailers, more than a dozen by the supervisor’s own count. In addition to the anonymous mailers, many others Sandoval accused of “race-baiting” were distributed by a group called Yes on Citizenship, No on F. The mailers do not endorse an opponent, but simply savage Sandoval.

A search of the San Francisco Ethics Commission’s campaign finance database revealed that Yes on citizenship, No on F received $49,000 from Donald Fisher, founder of the Gap.

Sandoval, a first-term supervisor, came short of accusing Fisher, who is Jewish, of financing the swastika ad, but noted that Baughman handled both the anonymous mailers and those from Yes on Citizenship, No on F, and all the mailers were printed at the same Richmond site.

Messages left for Fisher were not returned.

The text on the swastika mailer painting Sandoval as an anti-Semite was basedon an incident three years ago, when the supervisor shocked members of the Jewish community with his remarks at a Harvey Milk club appearance with fellow Supervisor Aaron Peskin.

Sandoval jolted many in the room when he said the city should deal with litigious CEOs he felt were fleecing San Francisco by picketing their “houses in Tiburon and their bar mitzvahs.”

Following the remark, Sandoval apologized to the Jewish community, ran a written apology in the San Francisco Chronicle and met with various Jewish organizations.

Peskin and then-Supervisor Mark Leno, both Jews, accepted Sandoval’s apologies and stood beside him at a City Hall press conference.

Members of the Jewish and general community have lent their support to an ad appearing in today’s j. decrying the swastika mailer.

“It’s over the top to put out something so ugly and vile,” said Sister Bernie Galvin, a nun, homeless advocate and District 11 voter who signed her name to the ad.

“It’s extremely offensive, to say the least, that what I characterize as hate mail is being forced upon the voters of District 11.”

Sandoval said he knew that, with the bar mitzvah comment in his past, “anytime somebody wants to attack me, they have a free ride to throw this at me.”

Being branded an anti-Semite, he continued, has been a grueling experience.

“Nothing in my life has ever caused me as much pain as these accusations,” he said.

With Election Day in sight, Sandoval thinks the ads may actually work to his benefit. He is running against a field of about half a dozen and says he is polling well. Still, he expects plenty of hardball campaigning before Nov. 2.

“I’m sure they’re saving the best for last,” he said.

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.