A local political gadfly has sparked a discussion about race in elections after tweeting that Board of Supervisors President London Breed is a “house negro” for supporting police use of Tasers.
The tweeter in question, Patrick Connors, holds no office and represents no candidates. However, Connors is widely known among little political circles in San Francisco for tweeting about scat and taking photos of men he finds attractive in public and posting them on Twitter, for which he gained some infamy.
Breed’s supporters said the tweet, which has since been deleted, directly stems from allegations by progressive mayoral campaigns that she is controlled by rich, white, tech industry interests — and that those arguments are “dog whistles” for racism.
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“London Breed’s evolving position on Tasers makes her the HOUSE NEGRO to beat in #SFMayor race …” Connors tweeted early Sunday morning, in connection to a Mission Local story about how Breed once fiercely, and publicly, opposed Tasers.
Breed’s supporters also said the progressive organizations affiliated with Connors should be held accountable for his words.
Connors was formerly part of the 400-plus member Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, an organization that leans to the progressive left in San Francisco politics and plays a prominent role in endorsing candidates for office. Though Connors is no longer a dues-paying member, I confirmed with the club’s leadership, they’ve already taken fire for his Tweet.
In a public Facebook post, Debra Walker, a Department of Building Inspection commissioner and an appointed Democratic Party delegate for Assembly District 17, called out the Milk Club to denounce Connors.
“Milk Club — this is one of your members. How can you remain silent in the face of this bigotry?” she posted.
Walker, who is an out lesbian, later told me she knows Connors from activist circles in San Francisco’s LGBT community.
“I have been a member of the Milk Club. Patrick is active in the Milk Club, as well. This reflects on us. This reflects on our community,” she said. “This is racist. We all should be upset about it.”
To be fair, there was actually a lot of response from the Milk Club.
Honey Mahogany, co-president of the club and a former Ru Paul’s Drag Race contestant, had not yet spoken with the club’s board and, therefore, could not represent the club officially. “As a club member who is black and an out transgender non-conforming person, I would be deeply upset if there was a member of the Milk Club who represented us this way,” she said.
Brad Joseph Chapin, who sits on the club’s executive board, called Walker’s accusations “fake news” on Facebook and denounced her as a white woman who is trying to mar the name of a club led by two women of color (Mahogany and her co-president, Carolina Morales).
Yet, Conor Johnston, a former legislative aid and now adviser to Breed, said Connors’ tweet was the inevitable result of “dog whistle” critiques from progressive political campaigns that claim Breed is influenced by tech mogul Ron Conway, who has invested in Airbnb and is a past contributor to Breed’s political campaigns.
“There’s an orchestrated effort to make her appear like she is under the thumb of rich white men,” Johnston said. “It’s pretty clear what that means when people say that. What we see with Patrick is someone being much louder and explicit.”
But does that mean no one can critique Breed for having taken donations from Conway? Those donations have mostly favored the moderate wing of Democrats, which Breed has allied with, and both state Sen. Scott Wiener and Assemblymember David Chiu have come under fire from support from Conway. And all have in the past voted in some way to favor Airbnb and other tech companies.
“I’m not even talking about one individual donor. I’m talking about a concerted effort to raise questions about her honesty and worthiness to be in a position of authority,” Johnston said.
Connors tweet may have opened the door for political critique of a major progressive club and progressive mayoral candidates. I could easily see campaign mailers from independent expenditure committees painting Connors’ comments as coming from progressive allies, though Connors himself says he is not a progressive.
Breed’s supporters are already floating Connors’ tweet as proof positive of racism from San Francisco progressives.
And it’s not just the Milk Club that has come under fire for Connors’ comments. He’s employed at the San Francisco Bar Association, and some have called for action from the group.
The law offices of Jim Reilly, who practices in San Francisco, sent me the following statement:
“Patrick Connors is the Court Appointment Coordinator for the San Francisco Bar Association. As such, he arranges for indigent individuals to be appointed attorneys in the Criminal & Juvenile Dependency Courts in San Francisco. Many of these individuals are from minority communities. To think the director of this program harbors such a racial bias is unacceptable.
Patrick Connors should resign immediately from the San Francisco Bar Association.”
The SF Bar is led by a black woman, Yolanda Jackson, who is its executive director and general counsel. In a statement, she sent to me today, Jackson said:
“The employee made the comment using their personal Twitter account, on their personal time. The employee was not speaking on behalf of the bar association and the comment does not reflect the beliefs or values of the organization. The Bar Association of San Francisco believes in cultivating diversity and pioneering constructive change in society.”
Connors, for his part, said he was trying to reference the words of Malcolm X, whose famous speech on “house negroes” spoke of slaves who were loyal to their masters.
“I’m just a jerk. I’m not a spokesman for anyone, certainly not the Bar association,” Connors said. “I shouldn’t have said that phrase, which I will not repeat, but I was using it in conjunction with an article from Mission Local, Joe Eskenazi, it was about her ‘evolving’ position in use of Tasers.”
“It matters to me how it happens,” Connors added. “That’s what motivated me to open my big stupid mouth.”