‘Beyond toxic’: S.F. supervisor candidate condemned for referring to Jewish journalist as a Nazi

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A candidate for a San Francisco Board of Supervisors seat referred to a Jewish journalist as a Nazi in social media posts Tuesday that promptly drew condemnation from political leaders and organizations.

Leanna Louie, who is running for election in District Four, which includes the Outer Sunset, posted messages on Instagram and Facebook that twice referred to Mission Local editor and columnist Joe Eskenazi as “Joe EskeNAZI.” Her posts followed recent reporting by Eskenazi that raised questions about whether Louie meets the residency requirements to appear on the ballot and whether she voted in an election for which she was not eligible to participate.

In the wake of Eskenazi’s reporting, the San Francisco elections director asked the City Attorney’s Office to review whether Louie meets the requirements to run in District Four.

Louie’s ability to compete in the Sunset supervisor race was already uncertain in light of the City Attorney’s investigation. The latest controversy over her social media posts could add another challenge to the viability of her campaign.

In her posts, Louie wrote that it was “so nice to talk to a journalist who actually had a dialogue with me,” alongside photos she took at KQED. She added, “Unlike Joe EskeNAZI who called me and talked over me and didn’t even write any of my responses.” Referring to him again as “EskeNAZI,” Louie said the journalist “totally wrote what he wanted and called his friends and members of the Weather Underground from Michigan, Berkeley, and other places to validate his points.”

Louie later edited the posts to remove the capitalized “NAZI” in Eskenazi’s name. She also included a photo of the journalist in a Facebook comment beneath her own post.

It’s unclear exactly why Louie referenced the Weather Underground, a violent militant group that was active decades ago. Former District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s parents were members of the radical left-wing organization who were both imprisoned because of their roles in a 1981 armored truck robbery in which two police officers and a security guard were killed. Louie was a vocal supporter of Boudin’s recall.

Louie could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.

“I am used to stuff like this ever since grade school when they teach non-Jews what the Holocaust is,” Eskenazi said Tuesday evening. “I think Ms. Louie owes an apology to Chris Thomas, the famously non-partisan 36-year election director of Michigan and Ann Ravel, an Obama appointee to the Federal Election Commission, whom she described as terrorists.”

Louie’s comments were forcefully denounced by several San Francisco political leaders and groups within hours.

“There’s no place in San Francisco for this kind of discourse,” Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who is Jewish, told The Chronicle. “I’ve been around electoral politics for a quarter of a century and I’ve seen some rough stuff, but this is beyond the pale and it has to be condemned in the strongest terms.”

Peskin called on Louie to pull out of the race and for her competitors to condemn her comments has well. He said he had already spoken to most of his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors and they were “all horrified.”

“If behavior like this is not harshly condemned and stamped out, San Francisco is not doing its job,” Peskin said. “It’s time for her to hang up and withdraw from the race.”

Supervisor Dean Preston called Louie’s post “truly disgusting” on Twitter and Supervisor Myrna Melgar tweeted, “Wow the D4 race, already ugly, has gotten somehow even worse and 2 more months to go. No place for this virulent antisemitism in our political discourse.”

Louie is hoping to unseat the incumbent District Four Supervisor Gordon Mar, who told The Chronicle in a text message that her “shockingly anti-Semitic and hateful comments are absolutely unacceptable.”

“She should immediately apologize to Joe Eskenazi and the elections experts she targeted with her absurd and inflammatory remarks,” Mar said.

Mar said Louie’s comments were “reflective of the reactionary extremism that has infected our political discourse this year,” referring to anonymous flyers that previously targeted him by falsely labeling him a “communist pedophile.”

The only other candidate in the District Four race is Joel Engardio, who is on his fourth bid for supervisor in recent years. Engardio has previously aligned himself with Louie, urging District Four voters to choose both of them as their first- and second-choice picks under the city’s ranked-choice voting system.

Engardio criticized Louie’s remarks on Tuesday but did not sever ties with her.

“It is unacceptable to politicize and weaponize the terrible history of when Nazis murdered millions of Jewish people and targeted others including LGBTQ people like me,” Engardio wrote on Twitter. “SF politics have become far too divisive and downright toxic. Residents are fed up and deserve better.”

He added that, as a longtime journalist himself, he strongly believed that “we must respect the First Amendment right of all journalists, whether you like them or not, to report and investigate freely. Our democracy depends on it.”

In his most recent story about Louie that was published Monday, Eskenazi wrote that Louie “finds herself in quite a bind,” after she admitted to voting in District 10 while she was a registered voter in District Four, where she is running as one of two challengers trying to unseat incumbent Supervisor Gordon Mar. In the article, Thomas, the former Michigan director of elections, and Ravel, a law school lecturer at UC Berkeley and former member of the Federal Elections Commission, both comment on Louie’s situation.

Iowayna Peña and Gary McCoy, co-chairs of the Alice B Toklas LGBTQ Democratic Club, condemned Louie’s comments in a statement released Tuesday evening.

“Enough is enough. Weaponizing harmful words across the San Francisco political landscape is beyond toxic — and it’s outright harmful,” they wrote. “Leanna Louie has a problem with facts, and her accusations are beneath the office in which she seeks.”

San Francisco officials are currently investigating Louie over whether she meets the residency requirements to appear on this year’s ballot. Eskenazi and Mission Local previously reported that Louie changed her voter registration three times over three months and that only 27 days had passed since her most recent registration in District Four and when she declared her campaign for supervisor. The City Charter requires that each supervisor live in their district for at least 30 days before declaring their candidacy.

Mission Local also reported that Louie voted in the April 19 state Assembly election using a family home address in supervisor District 10, even though she had registered to vote in District 4 by then. District 4 and District 10 voters live in separate Assembly districts.

In a recent interview with The Chronicle, Louie defended herself, explaining that she temporarily lived in her father’s house in District 10 at one point this year and voted from there in the April election, after she had signed a lease in District Four but before she had actually completed her move to the Sunset.

In addition to the City Attorney’s Office reviewing Louie’s District Four residency, Elections Director John Arntz confirmed that he had “referred the matter of (Louie) possibly voting a ballot sent to a former address to the District Attorney’s Office.”

Emma Talley and J.D. Morris are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. Email: [email protected] [email protected] Twitter: @EmmaT332 @thejdmorris

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