After an election season with no reported negative advertising from charter school-connected organizations against any of the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) Board of Education candidates, a last-minute attack ad was sent out against candidate Mister Phillips.
The mailer depicts the 2010 flooding of San Pablo Bay and claims that Phillips, an attorney who sued Contra Costa County on behalf of affected citizens over poorly managed storm drains, used the suit to promote his bid for District 1 County Supervisor.
“Mister Phillips put his own political interests ahead of the people he was supposed to be protecting,” the ad says.
Phillips’ current campaign manager, Gary Gartner, said Phillips was “a real hero” who “fought and won with the county to have drains cleared and stop further flooding of the homes.”
The mailer says that it was “paid for by the Parent Teacher Alliance, sponsored by the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) Advocates Independent Expenditure Committee.” CCSA and its campaign committees, including the Parent Teacher Alliance, advocate for charter schools and policies that support them.
Richard Garcia, Director of Elections Communications at CCSA Advocates, said that all voter information sent by CCSA Advocates contains a disclaimer with the organization’s information “prominently displayed.” When asked to verify the origins of the mailer, Garcia said it “appears to display our disclaimer information.”
Back in 2014, charter school-connected organizations, including the CCSA’s independent expenditure committee, spent over $130,000 to oppose Madeline Kronenberg’s campaign for the school board.
This year, the CCSA Advocates-sponsored Parent-Teacher Alliance had spent a combined $175,000 in support of candidates Miriam Stephanie Sequeira and Tom Panas as of Oct. 28—but the organization had not reported any opposition spending as of that date.
The mailer targeting Phillips was sent out earlier that week, said Gartner. Garcia did not directly respond to questions about when the flyer was mailed.
WCCUSD candidates Ayana Kirkland Young, Don Gosney and Carlos Taboada all said that to their knowledge, they have not been the subject of negative campaigning sponsored by CCSA Advocates.
“I don’t know if they think I’m a big enough threat, honestly,” Young said.
“They weren’t going to waste their money on us,” said Gosney.
Gosney and Taboada said they believed that CCSA Advocates conducted a community phone survey about the upcoming school board election the weekend before the mailer was sent out. Gosney said he believed that survey data was used to choose Phillips for the attack ad.
Garcia said he was unaware of any phone surveys made by CCSA Advocates.
Candidate Antonio Medrano did not respond to requests for comment.