By Luke Thomas
October 22, 2012
New details have emerged in the effort to derail the Julian Davis campaign for District 5 Supervisor, details that shed light on why Kay Vasilyeva, the woman who has accused Davis of sexual assault, went public with her claim six years later, and three weeks before Election Day.
According to Vasilyeva, as first reported by the SF Weekly, Davis grew “handsy,” and during a 2006 Chris Daly for District 6 Supervisor campaign bar-crawl, “touched her beneath her clothing in an unwelcome physical advance.”
Vasilyeva was a paid staffer on the Daly campaign; Davis was a volunteer.
Davis has repeatedly denied Vasilyeva’s allegation. He concedes he “crossed boundaries” when he, Vasilyeva and her ex-boyfriend went to see a movie together in 2008, during which he was being “overly flirtatious” with Vasilyeva. Davis said he apologized to Vasilyeva in 2010, which, he said, she accepted.
He wrote in an October 19 letter to members of Harvey Milk Democratic Club, which is set to vote today on a resolution to revoke its endorsement of Davis, “To be clear: the allegation of sexual assault brought against me is completely false. I will admit, as I did many years ago, that I was at times overly flirtatious in my past. I took this very seriously, and have since apologized, had my apology accepted, and made amends.”
Supervisor John Avalos, who first learned of an issue between Vasilyeva and Davis in March, endorsed Davis in August because Vasilyeva assured Avalos the matter had been resolved after Davis apologized.
After Davis was first made aware Vasilyeva’s on the record comments to the SF Weekly on October 10, he sent Vasilyeva a cease-and-desist letter October 12 to let her know he was aware she was making what he considered to be false and defamatory remarks.
The purpose of a cease-and-desist letter is to notify a person who is making slanderous or defamatory remarks or printing libel that they should immediately stop doing so.
Several elected officials – Supervisors Avalos, David Campos and Jane Kim – cited the cease-and-desist letter as the impetus behind their decision to pull their endorsements of Davis. The San Francisco Bay Guardian and the San Francisco Examiner, print publications owned by publisher Todd Vogt, followed suit and revoked their endorsements of Davis. Assemblymember Tom Ammiano also revoked his endorsement of Davis.
“In regards to the cease-and-desist letter I sent to Kay Vasilyeva, I understand why the letter created the reaction it did, but I ask you to look at this from a human perspective,” Davis said in his letter to the Harvey Milk Democratic Club. “My intention was never to intimidate her from speaking but to protect myself from defamation. Given the magnitude of her false accusation, I exercised my rights, knowing that in the court of public opinion, many would not care that her claim is uncorroborated.”
Vasilyeva attended an event after-party on September 27, a party Davis supporters attended to distribute campaign signs. According to a witness, when Vasilyeva was asked why she didn’t want a Davis campaign sign, she responded, “Do you know about the whisper campaign? You should ask Julian about the whisper campaign. It’s about me.”
The witness was willing to go on the record without attribution due to fear of retribution.
According to Wikipedia, “A whispering campaign or whisper campaign is a method of persuasion in which damaging rumors or innuendo are spread about the target, while the source of the rumors seeks to avoid being detected while spreading them. It is generally considered unethical in open societies, particularly in matters of public policy.”
Connection to D5 opponents?
Vasilyeva is a friend of Aimee Ellis who is listed as a “community leader” on the endorsements page of District 5 Supervisor Christina Olague’s campaign website. She also serves as External Vice President on board of the District 5 Democratic Club (D5DC).
As early as June, Ellis began publicly attacking Davis.
Davis sent Ellis a cease-and-desist letter June 22 after Ellis alleged at a June 6 D5DC candidates meet and greet, held at the Oasis café on Divisadero, that Davis was “fired from Senator Mark Leno’s office for sexual assault.”
Davis’ letter included a signed letter from Senator Mark Leno, who wrote, “Although employee-employer discussions are typically confidential in nature, I feel it’s important to clarify, upon his request, that Julian Davis did not leave my office related to issues of sexual harassment.”
Several witnesses at the candidates meet and greet confirmed Ellis’ public attack on Davis.
“She made many inappropriate remarks and personal attacks against Julian,” said D5DC Communication Chair Charles Lemon. “It was embarrassing for me and everyone else at the meeting.”
“I didn’t hear the first couple words of the argument, but suddenly Aimee is screaming across the room at Julian – ‘You were fired for mistreating women,’” said D5DC Internal Vice President Jonah Horowitz.
“She completely flipped out and went into a rant saying Julian mistreats women and that he was let go from Mark Leno’s office for sexually harassing women,” said Shannel Williams, City College Association Students Council President and former Davis campaign manager.
Ellis sought meetings with activists, political leaders, and the SF Weekly, beginning in mid-August to claim that Davis had a problem with women. The SF Weekly, in turn, talked to Vasilyeva but she was not willing at that time to be attributed with a claim against him.
San Francisco Bay Guardian Endorsement of Davis
Vasilyeva only agreed to go on the record with SF Weekly after the San Francisco Bay Guardian endorsed Davis as its number-one pick in the ranked choice race; describing Davis’ “personal life and behavior in his 20s” as “not always admirable.”
Vasilyeva is a city employee who works in the Department of Emergency Management. She also serves as the Endorsements Chair of San Francisco Women’s Political Committee (SFWPC) whose core principle is to, “Appoint and elect women to public office and position of political leadership.”
London Breed received the SFWPC’s sole D5 candidate endorsement.
Breed told Fog City Journal that she “doesn’t know Kay very well” and said the rumors she heard about Davis were “hearsay” and “malicious” and “have nothing to do with me.”
“I think the fact that he’s not been convicted of anything and everybody all of a sudden is in an uproar to pull their endorsements, I think is really sad, and I think it’s just an excuse for them to jump on Christina’s [Olague] bandwagon because she supported Ross [Mirkarimi],” Breed said.
Olague, Avalos, Campos and Kim voted October 9 to reinstate Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi following a 7-month politically-charged inquisition into whether Mirkarimi was guilty of official misconduct.
“I don’t take pleasure in this,” Breed added. “I’m not a fan of Julian but I just feel like the way this is going down is over the top and it’s wrong. I just think it’s a setup and, sadly, folks have just jumped ship on Julian – and they jumped ship on Olague before, and now they’re back on her team.”
Breed said she is not the type of person or candidate to do “something this malicious.” “I want to win this race fair and square,” she said.
Olague told Fog City Journal she had no personal knowledge of Ellis and Vasilyeva’s whisper campaign against Davis and disassociated her campaign from their activities saying she is running a positive campaign on the issues facing the City and District 5 residents.
Asked about Ellis’ connection to Olague’s campaign, Olague said, “That’s between Aimee and Davis. It doesn’t have anything to do with us. She supports me as a candidate but she has not been working on our campaign.”
“Neither one of them is working on my campaign,” Olague added.
When Fog City Journal spoke with Vasilyeva for comment, she was openly hostile, refused to go on the record or answer questions about her allegation, or her involvement in the alleged whisper campaign.
Ellis did not return requests for comment.
In 2010, Ellis participated in a whisper campaign against Jane Kim in the District 6 Supervisor’s race. Ellis and Vasilyeva supported Debra Walker.
When asked about the whisper campaign and the recent fallout from Vasilyeva’s allegation, Davis said he is “done commenting on the matter” and does not “wish to malign my allies in the progressive movement for the political decisions they’ve chosen to make.”
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 the Davis campaign.