New Details Emerge in Smear Campaign Against Davis

Written by Luke Thomas. Posted in News, Politics

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Published on October 22, 2012 with 58 Comments

Candidate for District 5 Supervisor Julian Davis. File photo by Luke Thomas.

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.

Cease-and-desist letter

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.”

Whisper campaign

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.

Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas is a former software developer and computer consultant who proudly hails from London, England. In 2001, Thomas took a yearlong sabbatical to travel and develop a photographic portfolio. Upon his return to the US, Thomas studied photojournalism to pursue a career in journalism. In 2004, Thomas worked for several neighborhood newspapers in San Francisco before accepting a partnership agreement with the SanFranciscoSentinel.com, a news website formerly covering local, state and national politics. In September 2006, Thomas launched FogCityJournal.com. The BBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, New York Times, Der Spiegel, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, 7x7, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Bay Guardian and the San Francisco Weekly, among other publications and news outlets, have published his work. Thomas is a member of the Freelance Unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521 and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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  • h. brown

    Campers,

       Take a few hours out and concentrate on the Giants who are playing the game of their young lives (most of em) to beat the Cardinals and get SF into the World Series for the second time in 3 years.

    I mean, really …

    Game time is in 2 hours and once again, my kids have given me a ticket.

    To see it live.

    Which I’d much rather do than see Aimee Ellis do what she does best.

    Which, if the rumors are true, might be competitive.

    Or, would you like to see film of the Davis accuser in action?

    Stow it all until tomorrow.

    Concentrate your energy upon the Giants for the next 5 hours.

    And, I’ll listen to your slimy comments.

    After … the Giants!!

    h.  

    • http://twitter.com/pinkbarrio rosa barrio

      “… the World Series…”

      Ugh.  The “World Series” which only includes corporati$t team$ from the Estados Unidos/U.S.  There’s far more to the world than the U.S.  They really should change the name of this corporatist thing to “The Championship of the United States”.

      • Meatsack

        If baseball isn’t your thing, let it go, I’m not a fan, could care less about it, but if people enjoy it so what?  If you hate corporations so much stop using a computer.

      • Demogreen

        First public power, then public sports teams, comrade!

  • DavidinSF

    Tim Redmond, Steve Jones John Avalos et al. (and others) here is your SMOKING GUN. Next time PLEASE investigate, instead of operating on hearsay. YOU LAZY BASTARDS. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/craig.scott.37669 Craig Scott

    wow, someone took a second to look into the facts and paused to think. 

  • http://twitter.com/uppityfag Patrick Connors

    Considering the last minuteness of all of this allegiance jumping, I can’t help but wonder what is the real incentive / motivation for all of the sudden undying love for Christine Olague.

    Are we really supposed to think that this is a come to jesus moment?

    The new endorsements smell like really old Limburger cheese. 

  • El Mano Negro

    First of all, I personally was at both the party at which Kay allegedly made the whisper campaign remarks and privy to the harassing phone call seeking comment from her prior to this article. And dude, you are waaaay high on your own kool-aid. I strongly suggest that you reach down, grasp firmly, and attempt to pull your head out of your own nether regions. Aside from the obvious hygienic benefits, it might be easier to see the truth that way.

    To start with, she politely declined the offer of a sign supporting Davis due to her own personal feelings on the matter. At no point were the words “whisper campaign” spoken.

    Secondly, if anyone was openly hostile it was the author of this article. She refused to comment to your publication because she felt you had misrepresented her in earlier articles and would only continue to do so, a point you have deftly proven here.

    So, to sum it up:
    1) get your facts straight,
    2) lay off the hard stuff,
    3) pull your head out of your ass.

    Thanks.

    • http://twitter.com/pinkbarrio rosa barrio

      This comment strongly reminds me of an Attack the Messenger™ routine which is so typical.  It’s much easier to use that overused route, rather than address the content of the article.

    • Witness

      Your claim that Kay didn’t mention the whisper campaign is a clear lie. I would know because I am the person quoted in the story. In addition there were a number of people who also heard Kay tell me to ask Julian about the whisper campaign. Your willingness to flat out lie about this creates even more doubt around the veracity of the claims made against Julian. 

      • El Mano Negro

        So, this wasn’t a flat out lie or intended to be so. After speaking to her I was informed that your statement was, in fact, correct. The only thing I can be guilty of here is using the same logic of many Davis supporters – if it didn’t happen to me or in front of me, then it must not have happened.

    • Info

       And, why would Vasilyeva say to ask Davis about the whisper campaign? Did she know whether HE knew or not? If he didn’t was that a signal from an exploited proxy by Vasilyeva to tip him off there was a whisper campaign? Did she start the whisper campaign?

      Boy, that is some deep, slimey politics if I ever heard and saw.

  • Guest

    About her does not imply or mean BY her.

  • R.E. Stone

    Well that’s clear as mud.

  • http://twitter.com/pinkbarrio rosa barrio

    This is an article on another website today:
    “Agnos and other progressives rally for Olague”

    Reminds me of a bunch of sheep.  I would imagine that the Establishment is pleased by these events.

    • http://www.facebook.com/annie.garrison Ann Garrison

      Christina Olague did act courageously at the Board when it came to a vote on reinstating Ross.  Doesn’t mean that Julian Davis should have to take the fall, which looks to me to be happening.

      • Info

         Yeah, seems like this is all political cover to help those supervisors and candidates. Self preservation in politics is the worse transparency of weakness in any politician.

  • Conor Johnston

    If you were going to write about what happened at the June D5DC meeting you should have talked to me.  You’re missing some critical elements to the story.    

    • Guest

      Care to inform anyone else?

    • Info

      Well, that was passive agressive. Now we are will take what you say as suspect. Just spit it out punk.

      • Conor

        I’ve provided my full name if Luke wants to contact me about it.  Or if you’d like to try to call me names in person, please feel free to give that a shot.  

  • Asumchai

    Bitches!

  • rosebluebird

    So much for spin from “the black hand” an unfortunate handle choice given the context of the D5 race and this commentary.
     
    Aimee Ellis  has shown no regard for truth about Julian Davis throughout this campaign.  It’s been her obsessive seek and destroy mission from day 1. Kay Vasilyeva chose to collaborate with Aimee Ellis in an ugly whisper campaign to destroy Julian Davis by any means necessary, resulting in the SF Weekly paying back the Guardian over its successful lawsuit by displacement.  Davis was collateral damage.  Despite this and treacherous treatment by John Avalos and the SF Bay Guardian, Davis manned up and retained his sole endorsement at the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club on Monday, October 22nd. This vote was a rejection by rank and file progressives –who are not peaced off by the Lee Machine– of the politics of personal destruction. It was a sophisticated rejection of manufacturing consent.
     
    It was also a recognition of the motives and all of the people involved.  As Robert Penn Warren wrote in “All the Kings Men” about Louisiana in the days of ”Kingfish” Hughie Long, “if you look long enough you’ll find dirt on anyone.” In D5 there is only one candidate who got the Eskenazi proctoscope, Julian Davis. He is the only credible progressive, African American male in the contest.   
     
    Going into the Weekly story Julian Davis was the top progressive candidate in the D5. That’s why he had to be taken down.  These  charges are 6 years old and were made by an educated, middle class member of the Lee administration with resources and political motive. The SF Weekly story failed to mention these two individuals went out together after the date of the alleged incident, a fairly odd occurence given the allegation. What was that about?  Would such a fact complicate an otherwise one dimensional “hit?” Of course it would.
     
    D5 voters get that the way to take down a strong progrressive who would ask rich, privileged interests to do their part locally is to take him down.  FCJ illuminated the back story. 
     
     

    • Info

       rosebluebird, maybe if was Ellis who kept pressuring Vasilyeva to come forward. Ellis has more emotional baggage on Davis than Vasilyeva. Seems like Vasilyeva is far more balanced of mind than Ellis. What is wrong is that she may be a pawn in this from all sides.

  • Axisoflovesf

    Agreed rejected manifactured consent, what this points to is that we dont need city hall to define what and who is progressive, the wishy washy transperant horsetrading is not progressive, doesnt matter what city or which jockeys, is inherantly not progressive and abit sociopathic

  • London Breed

    Luke, for clarity, my point in saying that I did not know Kay very
    well was to make it clear that I had no involvement in trying to use
    this to destroy another candidate. My comments were not addressed at
    Kay who is the alleged victim and is still dealing with drama for
    standing up. I stand by her 100%. The problem I have is with the
    folks that endorsed Julian, who also knew about alleged issues in his
    past involving women, and now, after a vote, they are using this to
    jump ship and sadly Kay is in the middle. She’s a young woman with a
    bright future and should not be treated in this manner. We need to
    look at our “leaders” and their decisions and hold them accountable to
    those decisions.

    • FellStBlues

      Hm yet more quotes taken out of context, it would seem. Manipulated quotes, direct quotes from unattributed sources… I smell irresponsible journalism.

      • Cringing

         No, FellStBlues. This is purely self-preservation of a candidate and would-be politician to try and gain some cover after losing the endorsement of Dianne Feinstein after cursing her benefactor, Willie Brown. There is no credibility here.

        • FellStBlues

          And Chris Daly was also just desperately trying to preserve his candidacy when he stated that he felt his and Bill Barnes’ quotes were manipulated in a previous article… oh wait. Let’s face it, there seems to be a pattern here.

          • marcos

            What candidacy was Daly trying to preserve?

    • Jae Woong Sohn

       Seriously, London, the fact that you claim to stand behind Kay 100%, while acknowledging not knowing who she truly is, demonstrates what kind of opportunistic person you truly are. I have a question for you: if Kay has such a bright future then why is she using dark political tactics from the shadows, engaging in “Whisper Campaigns”?

    • Axisoflovesf

      London, alledged victim. otherwise I agree on the transperancy of fairweathered progressives moves.ive worked as a rape crisis consel, run a support grp.for poor truly marginalized disabled women in our city for over a decade, and i am a survivor of rape myself. I stand.vejando everyone thats a survivor , we arent victims. And these allegations are not a responsible conversation with which to start and aint that a shame, Start the conversation about what progressives are going to do,DO,about rape and sexual assualt.

  • Bob In Portland

    People in their twenties flirt with each other. In most cases one or the other isn’t completely satisfied with how any relationship turns out. Since it’s not typical for men and women to play a variation of “Mother may I?” at every step of a relationship, if someone goes over the line at a time and place (bar-hopping) where the line is undetermined, I wouldn’t give much weight to the accusation. There’s a big difference between this and real sexual assault. 

    And this has nothing to do with whether or not Davis would be a good supervisor for District Five.

    • marcos

      I dunno, Bob, do you really trust that Julian can be trusted to have his finger on “the button” in D5 with all that is at stake given the poor table manners he used in handling these accusations?  After all, the City Council member holds the well being of the entire planet, scratch, universe in their hands and their conduct is eminently consequential far beyond this multiverse.

      • Info

         Uh, Marcos, I accuse you of being a jerk. Does that make it so? These are only accusations. Not worth anything until there is solid and corroborating evidence. It is a legal matter. Also, if after a statute of limitations there is no legal complaint, then it can’t be henous enough to be considered anything. Here this woman was under no pressure NOT to bring it forward after 6 years. There is no there, there.

        Time to leave this ship alone. It got soaked up the water like a paper tiger.

        • marcos

          Cease and desist calling me a jerk.  That’s my husband’s exclusive province. 

          For you, it is nothing more than poor table manners and a lack of sensitivity to the ironic.

      • Info

         You ARE being facetious, marcos.

    • FellStBlues

      First of all, please read thoroughly. In this case the “bar hopping” was a campaign event. In other words, what most of us would consider a *work* event. In other words, the two parties in question were there to work on the campaign and were not voluntarily “hanging out and drinking”. There was no “relationship” between these two people. I don’t know where you’re getting that from.

      Secondly, you sound like Todd Akin. So this was not a case of “legitimate” sexual assault in your view (which must be really reliable as you weren’t present and haven’t even managed to retain important details such as it was a campaign function)? Pray tell, what is the difference between “real” sexual assault and “not real” sexual assault? Is it not “real” when the 2 parties are in a bar setting? If there was any alcohol consumed? If there were no witnesses (or no witnesses willing to come forward)? If one party just happened to decide he was getting “signals”? 

      Let me just clear this up for you, Bob, just in case you may find yourself in a situation where you could get into trouble: intimately touching another person in an aggressive sexualized manner without consent is never ok. It is sexual assault. Whether or not you *think* you are getting “signals”. 

      • marcos

        Can you point me to a statement where the details of when and where the alleged incident happened is laid out in print?  All that I see is second and third hand echoes of the details of what was alleged.

  • marcos

    This reminds me of Audra Lindley playing Mrs. Roper in “Three’s Company,” where she’d say something like “you mean he made a pass at you in a single’s bar?” at least until the racial undertones are thought through.

    The image of a black man possessed by his own uncontrolled sexuality posing a threat to the sanctity of Virginal and Innocent White Vagina is one that has led to countless lynchings over the sordid history of Jim Crow in the US.

    There were more questions than answers to this before.  But the unanimity with which the political class has executed a synchronized polarity shift only adds more questions to the hopper.

    After a year of both parties using women as political pinatas, nerves are raw all around.  But the Democrat Party did showcase Bill “Prince of the Bimbo Eruptions” Clinton as their elder statesman around whom they rallied in 1992 and again in 1998 in spite of overwhelming evidence of serial groping and pussymongering.  Gavin Newsom, likewise, sexually harassed his best friend’s wife, both employees, as well as everyone else in the mayor’s office who did not sleep with the boss and was ostensibly denied quids pro quo.  Most all of those raising these issues about Julian supported Newsom’s promotion to Lt. Governor.

    Apparently, this flavor of feminism reserves its anger for those who are weaker than they, giving a pass to those who are more powerful.  That is a practical definition of bullying.

    The extent to which these questions remained willfully unanswered shines light on what those answers might be.  I’ve endorsed Christina, Julian and John since this race began and I’m sticking with them.  Any of those folks would make a fine supervisor.

    He made a pass at her, in a single’s bar!

    • FellStBlues

      Um yeah. Except it was a campaign event, not a singles bar. She wasn’t there to flirt, wasn’t there to find a date. Definitely wasn’t there to get felt up by a coworker.

      Although I’m sure you believe otherwise, much of what you wrote here makes you sound like an idiot.

      • marcos

        Please, point me to written source statements from the principles or witnesses to this effect instead of second or third hand hearsay.

  • http://www.facebook.com/annie.garrison Ann Garrison

    I’d have a hard time choosing between the good candidates in D5 if I lived there, but I’m glad the Milk Club didn’t respond to this and their endorsement stands.

    • Info

       It’s just really bad form to send a cease & desist letter regarding some sexual allegation without first the defender proving the evidence or allegation to be wrong or incorrect. Then sending it appears warranted. In Davis’ case, it was a knee-jerk reaction despite there is nothing to these allegations as it is.

      Think twice, cut once.

    • ArcAngel

       Ann, Kay did bring it to the campagin manager’s attention.  He (a male) blew off her concerns.  It is all documented in various articles.

  • sfnative

    all of this comes back to the man himself. i dont doubt that there could be some well coordinated efforts to derail davis’ campaign by the powers at work in this city. however, without the ammunition you cant fire the shot. clearly there was enough ammunition here for a shot to be fired that found its target. davis’ reaction to the whole thing definitely didnt help and seems to have reinforced reservations folks had about him already. in light of the mirkarimi vote that seems particularly true as avalos and campos could have stood by davis in the way they supported the sheriff. to me the fact that they didnt is telling and i dont believe it is about olague. i believe it is about davis, his behavior (not just now but in the past), and his foolish decision to send that cease and desist letter. it all comes back to the man himself.

    • Info

       Uh, there may have been some ammunition but they are all blanks.

  • Info

     No, FellStBlues. This is a candidate that is trying to maintain self-preservation like any politician including the ones who pulled their endorsements.

  • JerryLewis&Lambchops

    He can totally manhandle me anytime.  I would ride on that thing til cock crows. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/annie.garrison Ann Garrison

    I wish that all these leading progressives, and the San Francisco Bay Guardian, would just acknowledge that they all wanted to endorse Christina Olague for standing up to Mayor Ed Lee, instead of using Julian Davis’s difficulties as an excuse.

    • Michelle

      “standing up to Mayor Lee”?  As if Brown/Pak/Lee gives a flying fuck about who’s Sheriff?  Come on, Ann, you think you’re better than that.

      And, surely, Christina Olague’s dig at Julian Davis, about how he’d “never worked a day in [his] life” hit home for you — didn’t it? — because you have an awful.lot.of.time. to spend on the internet.  And your Facebook page says that you’re “self supported journalist.”  Which means that you’ve got a trust fund or a divorce settlement.  You principled gal, you!!

      • http://www.facebook.com/annie.garrison Ann Garrison

        Audience supported.  Just barely. And I don’t believe I said anything about Willie Brown or Rose Pak there.

    • http://twitter.com/pinkbarrio rosa barrio

      I agree.  That’s about the extent of it.