By Luke Thomas
October 19, 2012
District 11 Supervisor John Avalos posted a statement on Facebook Wednesday denouncing “tactics of marginalization and disenfranchisement,” a reference to a cease-and-desist letter sent by District 5 candidate Julian Davis to Kay Vasilyeva, the woman who has publicly accused Davis of sexual assault, an allegation Davis refutes.
“One of the key goals of the progressive movement is – and must always be – the empowerment of people who have been historically disenfranchised,” Avalos wrote. “Further, we must work to educate ourselves so that we learn to identify and shun those tactics of marginalization and disenfranchisement when they occur.
“Women like Kay Vasilyeva, who courageously tell their wrenching, personal stories of victimization so that new generations of women can be empowered, those women deserve our attention. Our respect. Our admiration. I offer Kay Vasilyeva my support as a desperate candidate for office seeks to paint her as a political operative, rather than as the bright, hardworking feminist with integrity and courage that I have known her to be. I stand with Kay Vasilyeva.”
Avalos told FCJ that he discussed with Vasilyeva her complaint against Davis as far back as March but endorsed Davis in August because he understood the matter between Davis and Vasilyeva to have been “settled to a certain extent,” and that he only pulled his support and revoked his endorsement of Davis October 14 when he was made aware of Davis’ cease-and-desist letter to Vasilyeva.
“I’m not quite clear what the nature of the allegation was,” Avalos said. “I never heard sexual assault.”
Supervisors David Campos and Jane Kim joined Avalos and revoked their endorsements of Davis following Davis’ cease-and-desist letter. All three supervisors voted October 9 to reinstate Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi following a protracted and politically charged seven-month inquisition into whether Mirkarimi was guilty of official misconduct. District 5 Supervisor Christina Olague also voted to reinstate Mirkarimi prompting the San Francisco Police Officers Association to revoke its endorsement of Olague.
Avalos said he was “troubled” by Vasilyeva’s complaint when he first heard about it but endorsed Davis “because I felt that he had shown in the past that he had taken responsibility for it. What I didn’t know is that he really didn’t sufficiently make up for that and relate that past responsibly into the present and how he needs to be at another level running for supervisor in San Francisco.”
Asked if he had received assurances from Vasilyeva and Davis that the matter had been settled and wouldn’t later become an issue, Avalos said, “From both, that the incident that happened before had been talked about between them.”
Vasilyeva, a city employee in the Department of Emergency Management, has worked on several political campaigns for progressive candidates, including the 2006 campaign to re-elect District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly and the 2010 campaign to elect Debra Walker to District 6 Supervisor.
Vasilyeva, 28, told the SFWeekly that Davis, 33, touched her beneath her clothing during a pub-crawl in the Mission District during the Daly re-election campaign. Vasilyeva was a paid staffer on the campaign; Davis was a volunteer. Vasilyeva did not report the incident to police and neither Daly nor his campaign manager, Bill Barnes, who were made aware of Vasilyeva’s complaint by Vasilyeva, reprimanded Davis or asked him to leave the campaign.
Vasilyeva went on the record with SFWeekly after the San Francisco Bay Guardian endorsed Davis as its number one pick in the ranked choice race. Its endorsement referenced Davis’ personal life in his 20s as “not always admirable.”
Davis said he was made aware of SFWeekly’s interest in Vasilyeva’s allegation on October 10 prompting him to send the cease-and-desist letter October 12 to Vasilyeva. SFWeekly ran with the story October 15.
The cease-and-desist letter is “way past the line” because it suggests Davis “was trying to silence someone,” Avalos said. “The allegation may not be true, but a cease-and-desist letter when something like this comes forward when you’re running for public office, doesn’t show good form.”
A cease-and-desist letter is a letter demanding that the recipient refrain from a certain behavior or face legal action, according to its legal definition. Some types of behaviors that may prompt such letters include libel and slander.
Referring to his endorsement of Davis, Avalos said, “I don’t think it was the right decision in hindsight because I don’t think he’s been really able to take responsibility and listen to women – and he probably needs to.”
In a statement released Wednesday, Davis acknowledges his past mistakes with some women with whom he “may have crossed boundaries,” but denies he has ever sexually assaulted anyone and is calling into question the timing of Vasilyeva’s allegation, less than three weeks before Election Day.
Avalos, who ran a positive campaign in last year’s race for mayor, finishing second and garnering more votes in District 5 than any other candidate, including Mayor Ed Lee, said Davis should consider dropping out of the race.
“I think it makes sense that Julian really considers dropping out,” Avalos said.
Asked to comment on Avalos’ request that he consider withdrawing his candidacy, Davis said, “I am done commenting on this. I do not wish to criticize one of my allies, John Avalos.”
Luke Thomas is a resident of District 6. As a professional photographer, he has supplied photography services to several campaigns in this election cycle including Davis’ campaign.