Ten or more canvassers, purportedly working in shifts, urged attendees at Saturday’s public school enrollment fair at the Mission’s John O’Connell High School to vote Josephine Zhao onto the school board.
This occurred in spite of the candidate’s well-publicized “withdrawal” from the race in early September, after revelations that she sent Chinese- and English-language supporters conflicting messages, and had impugned her fellow candidates as “two transgender candidates … fighting for the title of ‘first transgender commissioner’ … There are also three homosexuals. Their highest priority for education would be to spread ideologies.”
Public school parents, however, were purportedly told by the canvassers to vote for Zhao anyway, as “she’s still on the ballot.” This is true; Zhao’s “withdrawal” came at too late a date to remove her from the running for November’s election. Event attendees were also allegedly told they should vote for Zhao because “the Chinese community needs her.” This, of course, is a more subjective matter.
Multiple attendees said the Zhao canvassers, who were described as older Asian men and women, were organized and working in shifts, and handing out English-language campaign material (the flier, obtained by Mission Local, describes Zhao’s impoverished upbringing in China and her hard work since arriving in the United States 30 years ago at age 19; it is labeled “Immigrant Story Part I” in its upper right-hand corner).
Several parents in attendance told us the Zhao canvassers did all of this within John O’Connell High School at the voter-rich enrollment fair — a transgression of rules every other candidate or their backers respected.
Reached via e-mail, Zhao wrote, “I had nothing to do with the canvassers over the weekend. My supporters have taken it upon themselves to support my former candidacy and to support having Chinese representation on the school board. They must still [have] had literature from several months ago. Please contact them directly if you want further details.”
She did not answer our question of whether she would serve if elected.
District 6 supervisor candidate Christine Johnson, District 2 Supe Catherine Stefani and Sheriff Vicki Hennessy have publicly dropped their support of Zhao, but her marquee endorsers — including Mayor London Breed, Sen. Scott Wiener, Assemblyman David Chiu, former supervisor and Assemblywoman Fiona Ma — have not yet done so, despite several of them counseling her out of the race.
One day prior to her canvassers showing up at the Oct. 13 enrollment fair, Zhao commented via her “Josephine Zhao for School Board 2018” Facebook page for the first time since her Sept. 10 “withdrawal.” In her brief post, Zhao praised an article written by an LGBT Chinese woman who salvaged her relationship with her parents thanks, in part, to Zhao. “I am committed to be an ally of LGBTQ community and agent to bring the immigrant community forward,” Zhao wrote on her campaign Facebook page.
Multiple city politicos have reported Zhao’s storefront campaign signs have been refreshed, even since her Sept. 10 withdrawal.
Zhao, in 2013, joined with reactionary, anti-LGBT groups to protest the state’s proposed gender-neutral bathroom bill, AB 1266. This is something left-leaning opponents have tossed back at Zhao and her allies through the years, and she has issued apologies. Mission Local, however, was able to document that Zhao has, repeatedly, downplayed the extent to which she was involved in the effort to undo AB 1266, helping to circulate and collect a petition put out by the Pacific Justice Institute — which is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “an anti-LGBT hate group.”
Via the WeChat Chinese-language messaging system, Zhao communicated with scads of followers. She filled hundreds of paid spots on Wiener’s 2016 state senate campaign, while attacking his opponent, Jane Kim, as a “homewrecker/career-wrecker.” Zhao in 2016 also referred to supervisor candidate Sandra Lee Fewer, who was running against Marjan Philhour for the District 1 seat, as “Chinese trash” and a “race-traitor.”
Cantonese speakers have told Mission Local that WeChat users have, since Zhao’s ostensible withdrawal, urged users of the service to vote for her regardless. The volume and fervency of those messages, we are told, has increased of late, with Zhao’s supporters allegedly even calling for some manner of press conference this weekend, to urge the community to support her in the coming election and spur her to run.
Even with Mayor Breed’s appointment of Faauuga Moliga to a vacant school board seat, there are still 19 candidates on the ballot running for three spots — with no incumbent other than Moliga, who is still running in November’s race.