How do you check whether a candidate's really withdrawn?
November 1, 2018 9:47 AM   Subscribe

After heavy criticism for her past statements, Josephine Zhao says she's withdrawn as a candidate for the San Francisco school board. But her name's still on the ballot for next week's election, and her supporters are still campaigning for her. What does it mean to withdraw, and what if she wins anyway?

Josephine Zhao is a landlord, an immigrant from China, a parent, and a paraeducator in the San Francisco Unified School District.

In the mid-2010s, Zhao led political groups and nonprofits, and campaigned against a bill expanding safe access to bathrooms for trans students. When speaking and writing in Cantonese, in Chinese-language media, Zhao said transphobic things and smeared people on the other side of political arguments with phrases like "race traitor".*

In 2018, Zhao started running for the school board, raising more than $90,000 in campaign contributions -- more than any other candidate. She apologized for her past transphobic statements, saying "I support transgender students using the bathroom of the gender they identify with".

In September, Mission Local published a report translating statements she'd made (on WeChat, on Facebook, on the radio, and in newspapers) from Cantonese to English. Zhao currently calls herself a progressive, but:
with even minimal exploration, Zhao's explanations of her troubling past behavior rapidly begin to strain credulity.... As recently as 2012, however, she was personally, and via her nonprofit AsianAmericanVoters.org, urging San Franciscans to vote a straight Republican ticket .... Zhao, personally and via her nonprofits, has spent years denouncing rent control, championing the Ellis Act, and questioning whether city tenants have too much power.... right-leaning members of the Chinese community have assailed her as two-faced. But, in an Aug. 23 World Journal article, Zhao makes a loaded statement: "She suggests to the Chinese community to see what she says later."
Zhao got heavy criticism for the kinds of racist, transphobic, and homophobic statements she'd said in the past and seemed to still be saying in Cantonese media. Zhao apologized again (saying that receiving "the wrong information" was part of the reason for her past views), and lost some endorsements. Mayor London Breed and California state senator Scott Wiener continued to back her.

On September 10th, Zhao publicly said she was withdrawing from the race -- but her name had already made it onto the ballot, and the ballot won't be reprinted to remove her. "In the Chinese-language press, SingTao Daily described her as being pressured out of the race by the gay community."

Last month, Zhao's campaign still seemed to be campaigning for voters, including a rally in Chinatown. Local Chinese and transgender activists wrote an op-ed in the Examiner urging voters to vote against Zhao.

The top three vote-getters (out of a field of 19 candidates) in the election this coming Tuesday will get seats on the SFUSD board.

* I've chosen not to reproduce most of the slurs here -- people can click through to the Mission Local report and other articles to find those details.
posted by brainwane (19 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
As an SF resident, I'm a bit more concerned with certain trans/homophobic people we've elected / appointed at federal levels than I am about someone on the SFUSD board. Will not be voting for her in any case.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:31 AM on November 1, 2018


Uh... maybe we can be concerned about both?? Besides, the SFUSD board member probably has a lot more direct impact on how trans students are treated, at least those within her jurisdiction.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 11:03 AM on November 1, 2018 [22 favorites]


Her votes will be counted and if she wins she could take office if she wanted. Dead people are elected to office in California all the time.
posted by MattD at 11:03 AM on November 1, 2018 [2 favorites]


Her votes will be counted and if she wins she could take office if she wanted.

Is that really true, though? In my state, there is a defined process for withdrawing (generally by sending written notification to the same agency that certifies candidates, even if the ballots have already been printed), and a defined procedure that specifies how those votes are counted.

What does it mean to withdraw shouldn't really be a question. Pretty much everywhere has legislation that covers this.
posted by anastasiav at 11:19 AM on November 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


Is that really true, though?

Yes.
"Any candidate on the November ballot who receives a sufficient number of votes for a particular contest will be considered elected to the respective offices,” he said, adding that the department has “no discretion” over who is elected to an office."

It's called the wait and see if I really fucked up because the 67 days for ballot removal has passed. If the person was sincere, a " I will not serve if elected" caveat would rear.
posted by clavdivs at 11:34 AM on November 1, 2018


Is that really true, though? In my state, there is a defined process for withdrawing (generally by sending written notification to the same agency that certifies candidates, even if the ballots have already been printed), and a defined procedure that specifies how those votes are counted.

Yes.

The relevant election laws require candidates to withdraw 'by filing a signed and sworn statement of withdrawal with the Department no later than 5 p.m. on the 67th day before the election.' I'm not sure why this is being posed as a question given that one of the linked articles already answers it:
While Josephine Zhao has indicated she is withdrawing from her school board race, technically, she can’t. At least, not unilaterally. The deadline to remove her name from the ballot passed Aug. 31. We have written to Department of Elections boss John Arntz, but it seems that, barring a judge’s order, Zhao’s name will remain on the ballot.
...
Department of Elections head John Arntz confirms that Zhao’s name will remain on the ballot and that “Any candidates whose names appear on the ballot and who obtain enough votes relative to particular contests will be elected to those offices.”
Zhao has not legally withdrawn because she cannot legally withdraw. Her statement that she has withdrawn isn't binding, nor is her promise not to serve if elected, although, conversely, there's also nothing legally stopping her from following through on her promise not to serve.
posted by cjelli at 11:41 AM on November 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


Uh... maybe we can be concerned about both??

My point being that we shouldn't be surprised when we get right-wing nut jobs even getting a ballot mention at the local level (even in SF) when when we're letting it happen at a state and national level. In this case I think the indirect impact outweighs the direct impact - we're collectively saying "meh" to a political culture where the person saying shitty things is also the one raising the most money (ref. link in OP). This is a microcosm of where we've found ourselves as a country. We're comfortable to bitch and moan about them being on the ballot but when it comes to raising money for the voices that call bullshit, crickets.

I'm not happy about her being on the ballot and I don't support her, but the problem is bigger than just SF's school district.
posted by allkindsoftime at 11:48 AM on November 1, 2018


It's also interesting from a cultural/immigrant generational perspective.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:58 AM on November 1, 2018


I'm sorry for posing the question poorly. Thanks for pointing out the legal facts, clavdivs and cjelli.

In terms of election law, she has not withdrawn, because she has missed the deadline to do so. But socially, we have a set of norms around withdrawing. She's followed some of them (making a public declaration) but not others (such as getting her followers to stop campaigning for her, and asking her supporters to put their support towards a specific other candidate). That ambiguity is what caused me to want to ask: what does it mean for a candidate to withdraw from a race, and do people differ in their understanding of whether "I withdraw" necessarily implies "and if elected I will not serve"?

(I didn't see where she promised that, if elected, she would not serve -- has she done that? If so, could someone point to it?)

Again, sorry for badly wording my initial post and leaving that question more implicit than explicit.

(SorryWatch doesn't think much of Zhao's apologies.)
posted by brainwane at 12:05 PM on November 1, 2018 [2 favorites]


This makes me incandescent with rage. Not so much that she's a shitty person being shitty (well, actually, no, that makes me pretty damn mad too), but would it freaking kill Breed and Wiener to do the right thing? Just once? (See also.)

If you live in San Francisco, please, please don't skip this race on your ballot. The San Francisco Teachers Union has endorsed Faauuga Moliga, Li Miao Lovett, and Gabriela Lopez; the teachers I know in the city are also excited about Alison Collins.

My fantastic and responsive district supervisor, Sandra Lee Fewer, is the person Zhao referred to as a "race traitor" (and "Chinese trash," for extra fun). I'm... really having a hard time even explaining my gut reaction to that phrase; my heart is racing right now. I don't know what it connotes in Cantonese, and it seems Zhao is attacking Fewer because of her political views, but we had a thread recently about abuse and harassment directed against Asian women who marry white men, and.... whoo.

I also don't really understand the point of coming in to this thread and saying you're more concerned about transphobes in the federal government? Yeah, they suck too and I'm doing my best to fight this administration, but most of them aren't on my ballot or the ballots of most of the people I'm able to influence in my daily life. Zhao is, and I want her gone.
posted by sunset in snow country at 12:30 PM on November 1, 2018 [15 favorites]


(I didn't see where she promised that, if elected, she would not serve -- has she done that? If so, could someone point to it?)

Apologies: I don't think she has -- looking back, I misread recent reporting saying that she has not said she would take office as her saying she would not take office.

If she is serious about withdrawing -- and your question about what it means to say you're doing something you can't legally do applies here -- it would seem like an easy spot to tell the various reporters that have explicitly asked her that she would decline to serve, or resign, if she was elected. That she has not done so does make one wonder how truly she is withdrawn or not.
posted by cjelli at 12:33 PM on November 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


Personally, I appreciate windows into local politics from neighborhoods and cities beyond mine. It normalizes the importance of local races, for one thing, and it's also interesting hearing about how other cities do things and what's going on in other municipalities.
posted by sciatrix at 12:40 PM on November 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


Zhao privately told the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club that she would not take office if elected. She promised to make a public announcement the following Monday. She never did. Combined with the previous pattern of saying completely different things to the English-speaking press and to her Cantonese-speaking followers, I can only conclude that she knows exactly what she's doing.
posted by sunset in snow country at 12:42 PM on November 1, 2018 [9 favorites]


sciatrix, one additional wrinkle I debated putting into the post: in this election (specifically the SF Unified School Board election), many noncitizens who are SF residents are eligible to vote, because the successful 2016 ballot Proposition N:
extends the voting rights in San Francisco School Board elections to non-citizen residents of San Francisco who are of legal voting age, not in prison or on parole for a felony conviction, and who are parents, legal guardians, or legally recognized caregivers of children under the age of 19 living in San Francisco
As of the registration deadline (Oct. 22) only 49 noncitizen voters signed up, but San Francisco offers same-day in-person registration and voting at its City Hall Voting Center. I don't think I've seen any coverage of how/whether this affects Zhao's campaign's strategy.
posted by brainwane at 1:14 PM on November 1, 2018 [2 favorites]


> If you live in San Francisco, please, please don't skip this race on your ballot. The San Francisco Teachers Union has endorsed Faauuga Moliga, Li Miao Lovett, and Gabriela Lopez; the teachers I know in the city are also excited about Alison Collins.


Co-sign, although if you really want to stick it to Zhao and to Trump, you can also vote for the smart, qualified, awesome trans woman running -- Mia Satya. I voted for her, Moliga, and Collins.
posted by gingerbeer at 5:38 PM on November 1, 2018 [5 favorites]


The links make this candidate sound cartoonishly bigoted, corrupt, and villainous. It's interesting how she still manages to have lasted in politics long enough to amass a voter base. Does she have any opponents in the Cantonese community besides the one she attacked? How was she not called out and condemned earlier?
posted by Apocryphon at 12:10 AM on November 2, 2018


She was called out earlier, but she wasn't running for citywide office then.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:54 AM on November 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


what does it mean for a candidate to withdraw from a race, and do people differ in their understanding of whether "I withdraw" necessarily implies "and if elected I will not serve"?

Yeah, I think even if she says she withdrew, if she hasn't formally submitted paperwork, she's still probably going to serve if elected, but now with 'Oh, I tried to withdraw but The Voters Have Spoken' nonsense.
posted by corb at 9:11 AM on November 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


Fortunately, she came nowhere near getting the votes needed for the seat.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:05 PM on November 7, 2018 [3 favorites]


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