The Second District Council race here in Long Beach is in the final stretch. The two remaining candidates, Progressive activist Jeannine Pearce and her wealthy centrist opponent Eric Gray, are locked in a tight contest for Long Beach’s dynamic and diverse downtown area. Before the primary in May, few expected that Pearce, a long time community organizer and working mother, would be able to hold off the massive amount of money and establishment support behind Gray. However thanks to Pearce’s superior campaigning skills (which have been honed over the better part of decade of organizing service workers in this city), she finished well ahead of Gray and is now favored to beat him in June’s general election.
Which is probably why Gray is resorting to this sort of horrendous, Karl Rove-style direct mail attack:
What Gray is attempting to imply here is that Jeannine Pearce, a candidate who protested with her (then) infant daughter on Christmas Eve in defense of latina housekeepers, is a supporter of racist demagogue George Wallace. In Gray’s world Pearce, the leader of Long Beach’s incredibly successful campaign to pass Proposition 47, is a secret member of a long forgotten political party established around white resentment and “law and order” in 1968.
In truth Gray is entirely aware that Pearce, like millions of other Californians, intended to register as an “independent” voter when she moved here from Texas. However Gray, instead of focusing on drawing distinctions between him and (the far more qualified) Pearce based on substantive policy issues, is instead lazily trying to confuse voters with irrelevant signifiers like this typo from 2011. Ironically if any candidate is truly following the legacy of Wallace, it is Gray, who actively courted the insanely reactionary Long Beach POA by turning back the significant developments that our state has made in terms of Criminal Justice Reform (more on this issue next week).
Since the “Wallace” mailer premiered a few weeks ago to almost universal condemnation, Gray has shifted his tactics and outsourced his attacks to his preferred independent expenditure group. Like many wealthy politicians who have taken advantage of campaign finance loopholes created by the Citizens United decision, Gray has figured out that it’s better to not get his own hands dirty with scurrilous attack ads like the one below.
What’s interesting about this piece (which must have cost a fortune to produce at the last minute) is how it truly represents the substance-free, post-ideological nature of Gray’s entire campaign. Gray has been insisting for months that his legitimacy as a candidate in the Second District is grounded in his status as the “only lifelong Democrat” in the race. However here are his biggest supporters, giant corporate interests and the Long Beach Police Officers Association, trying to paint Pearce as the next Che Guevara because she worked to raise the minimum wage for hotel workers. Scare quotes around “social justice work” and “fighting for equity” are downright McCarthyist in their intent and purpose here.
And if there was any doubt as to Gray’s own commitment to the party he’s supposedly supported since he was in diapers, his own campaign put out this trash heap of a statement to the handful of registered Republicans who still live downtown.
This sort of reckless disregard for the truth is part of a pattern of seriously disconcerting behavior for a person seeking public office. Since beginning this contested election in 2015, Gray has repeatedly taken diametrically opposing sides on critical issues, showing a deference to any ideology that might appease the audience in which he was addressing at the time. He has also engaged in an intimidation campaign against supporters of Pearce, even threatening a notable LGBT non-profit when one of their directors publically endorsed Jeannine. Meanwhile Pearce has stayed entirely free of any conceivable negative campaigning, which only highlights the inanity of Gray’s obsession over her registration status.
On a personal note I grew up in the state where George Wallace was governor. I swam every summer in a lake named after his wife. Jeannine Pearce is quite literally the polar opposite of the racist fascism that Wallace stood in front of the schoolhouse door to defend. Pearce is a pillar of the second district, she is the heart of our city’s activist community, and she is a true believer in the cause of social and economic justice. The fact that Eric Gray would compare her to the hateful ideology of white supremacy is reprehensible, and only underlies why he is undeserving of support from any self-respecting liberal, progressive, or anyone else with a shred of decency.