Political observers in California–notably Dan Morain of the Sacramento Bee–remain outraged over the tactics used by Mike Gipson, 47, to win California Assembly District 64 over Prophet Walker, 26. In one mailer, Gipson depicted Walker as a violent criminal in a dark hoodie, grinning and aiming a gun, alongside a flattering picture of Gipson in his police uniform. The flyer noted Walker’s criminal past: Walker pleaded guilty to robbing and beating a victim when he was 16, and served five years in jail.
As Morain notes, Walker turned his life around; while in jail, he obtained his associate of arts degree, then later attended Loyola Marymount University and found work as a civil engineer. Gipson’s history included service as a policeman in the 1990s in Maywood, but that suburb terminated its police force because it was riddled with corruption and brutality. He also had served under several South Central Los Angeles politicians, worked for 12 years for the United Teachers of Los Angeles, and is currently a Carson City Councilman.
According to the Sacramento Bee, supporters of Gipson included Rep. Maxine Waters and Assemblyman Isadore Hall, the California Democratic Party, the California Teachers Association, oil producers, casino owners, payday lenders, soda and alcohol companies, unions representing nurses, public employees and construction workers, insurance companies and tobacco companies.
Walker’s supporters included advocates for charter school advocates, who donated $500,000 to his campaign, and the Service Employees International Union.
Five days before the election, SEIU spokeman Mike Roth snapped in an email to the Bee, “Putting a young black man in a hoodie with a gun in your face is about the most stereotypically racist move I’ve ever seen from any campaign. Gipson is sending the wrong message to every young black kid in the district.”
Gipson received 64% of the vote.
Although the election code states that candidates must not maliciously manipulate opponent’s images, all the victim can do is sue the culprit, and damages can only amount to the cost of the mailer and attorneys’ fees, Morain writes.
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