A union-funded attack ad comparing President Trump to Sacramento Council member Steve Hansen prompted Mayor Darrell Steinberg and other community leaders to come to his defense at a press conference on Monday.
Hansen is being targeted by the Sacramento Working Families independent expenditure committee, funded by the SEIU 1021 labor union. It is endorsing Hansen’s opponent, Katie Valenzuela.
One of the pieces of campaign literature — a door hanger featuring President Trump's face on one side and "Steve Hansen supports Republicans" on the other — hit homes this weekend.
The door hanger also reads “We must stand up for our values.” Mayor Darrell Steinberg called the phrase a political “dog whistle," and Hansen, who is gay, said the language was intended to target him because of his sexual orientation.
“They’re bullying the only openly-LGBT member of the city council. They’re not doing that to anybody else,” Hansen said.
Sacramento Municipal Utilities District board member Rosanna Herber, who identifies as lesbian, said the flier, which also includes a black-and-white image of Hansen with exaggerated shadowing, was further proof of an attack based on his sexuality.
“He doesn’t look very good. This is the kind of work that’s done to attack LGBTQ elected officials,” she said.
A spokesperson with Sacramento Working Families says the use of the phrase has nothing to do with Hansen’s sexuality.
"It's not in any way about his sexual preference. It is solely about how he has voted against tenants, against our permanent rent control," said SEIU 1021’s Jovanna Vasquez.
She said the group supports Valenzuela because “she supports the community values and has been standing up for the community in supporting our bigger campaign for real rent control in Sacramento.”
SEIU 1021 began targeting Hansen after he thwarted attempts to put a rent control ballot measure before voters last year. Instead, Hansen orchestrated a different rent control law, which critics say was watered-down.
Valenzuela has been a vocal critic of that deal and the council’s refusal to put the measure on the ballot. But she described the attack ad as “disturbing.”
"I do think that a lot of that was pretty misleading,” Valenzuela said. “Definitely don't think that putting the photo of President Trump or talking about values in that context were appropriate.”
"There's no greater antithesis in this country to what I stand for than the man who is pictured on that door hanger,” Hansen, a Democrat, said of Trump. “And to say that I share anything with him is a bald-faced lie.”
The ad’s claim that Hansen supports Republicans dates back to 2018, when he — along with Councilman Eric Guerra and city school board member Darrell Woo — were voted out of the Sacramento Democratic Party’s Central Committee for endorsing District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, who was registered to vote as a Republican. She later changed her registration to no party preference.
Vasquez said the image of Trump was used to draw the attention of voters. She could not name another time when Hansen had supported a Republican.
On Saturday, Valenzuela called for an end to ads attacking Hansen, as did Hansen and Steinberg on Monday.
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