Illegal (or Worse) and Racist Signs Attacking Two Council Candidates Appear on Irvine Streets




Anonymous and apparently illegal signs attacking Irvine City Council candidates Farrah Khan and Melissa Fox.

Anonymous and apparently illegal signs attacking Irvine City Council candidates Farrah Khan and Melissa Fox.

Irvine City Council candidate Farrah Khan put out a post on Facebook late last night to 50 or more people within an interest in either Irvine politics or in Orange County political practices generally.  I see no indication that it is intended to be private, so I’m sharing it here:

I’m reaching out to you today, asking for your support to end hateful rhetoric in local elections through statements that are untrue. As many of you know me, I do not have any ill will towards any religion or race, let alone an entire country. The attached signs have been placed throughout Irvine making false accusations by another candidate. We would like to send a message out to our community that this will not be tolerated and we will not be divided. Will you agree to be listed as one of the signers to the following statement:

Within the last 24 hours, a series of negative campaign signs were placed throughout Irvine. These signs present damaging and misleading messages targeting Ms. Farrah N. Khan and Ms. Melissa Fox, candidates for Irvine City Council. In particular, these signs target Farrah racially. While it is expected for candidates to lay out their political differences during election season, negative campaigning on the basis of ethnic or religious identity has no place in Irvine. Wrongly targeting candidates in a way that fosters a hostile and intolerant atmosphere runs counter to the inclusive principles our city has celebrated since its founding. As Orange County residents, we stand against negative campaign rhetoric that promotes hate, prejudice, religious or racial division. We hereby pledge to maintain the open, welcoming environment that has allowed our city and Orange County to thrive.

I look forward to your response,

Farrah N. Khan

The signs depicted above attack the two candidates endorsed by the Democratic Party of Orange County, who have themselves been somewhat at odds, anonymously and without identification as to who printed them, who paid for them, and whether they were from any registered political committee.  This is illegal except under certain limited circumstances, such as a candidate’s direct sponsorship of them.  And a candidate’s direct sponsorship of this trash would, of course, be worse.

The anti-Khan signs attack her as a supporter of CAIR-PAC, the political funding committee associated with the Council on American Islamic Relations, and as “anti-Israel.”  Khan does indeed support CAIR, as do many other progressives and moderated in the county, for its role as the American Muslim equivalent of the NAACP.  The signs offer no explanation for why she is smeared as “anti-Israel,” but implicitly it seems to have to do with her association with CAIR and with her being Muslim herself.  She denies that charge — and is in fact a prominent leader within the county’s interfaith activist community.

The anti-Fox signs attack her for being an “Agranista” — supporter of Larry Agran, from whose positions on the Great Park and such I understand she has in fact kept some distance — and as a “carpetbagger.”  She and her family moved to Irvine from neighboring Lake Forest roughly (if memory serves) five years ago.  If she’s carpetbagging, she’s not trying very hard at it.

Local Democratic and Sikh activist Mani Kang reported in the ensuing discussion that:

I made a statement at the end of the DPOC Exec Board meeting today regarding these Negative signs and brought the issue to everyone’s attention. It definitely put everyone on notice! Now we have find who the actual sign maker is and link it to the potential suspect…

As usual in OC, finding out who put out the anonymous attacks is unlikely unless someone involved in their production “flips.”  The lack of an identified printer cuts off one likely avenue of investigation.  At least one Democratic activist asserted that the source was a rival Democratic candidate who was denied the party nomination, but offered nothing beyond speculation.  No accusation — including that this could be a “false flag” operation intended t0 generate sympathy for one or both of the targets — is likely to go unmade.

Opposing candidates — at least those awake in the middle of the night — were quick to add their names in condemnation.

Anthony [Kuo]
As a candidate myself, I would agree that we need to keep the campaign civil. These sorts of signs distract from the real issues facing Irvine. Farrah, I’m sorry you have to endure such hateful conduct.
Courtney [Santos]
I’m sorry to see this negativity in Irvine. We all share values like education, family, peace and safety, and religious tolerance. I wish all community members would remember that no matter who wins or loses, after November we are all still neighbors. It should never get this ugly. I’ve already signed the Code of Fair Campaign Practices but would be happy to sign onto your statement, Farrah, as well. Good luck and stay safe.

Joel Block, a Democratic former Assembly candidate, suggested that that DPOC Chair Henry Vandermeir issue a statement condemning the signs.  That’s not a bad idea, but few would likely read it or care even if they did.  A better plan might be for him to — once having confirmed that, due to their lack of documentation, they have no legal protection under City law — lead a squadron of people to go and rip them all down.  (This would be a nice PR event.)  Campaign signs are tolerated along public roadways in the weeks leading up to an election, but there is no indication that these are campaign signs benefitting from that protection.

Ironically, being joined as victims comes after a conflict between the two targeted campaigns.  Fox and her most prominent ally, outgoing Council Member Beth Krom, have been spreading the meme that Khan was “crashing events,” including a Fox fundraiser — to which Khan was invited by the host.  A supporter of Fox’s fed a story to The Liberal OC — we’re not going to link to it — stating that Khan had crashed a UCI event (she was invited) and that students were upset that she promoted herself (witnesses confirm that they were supportive.)  Fox or a close associate also ghost-wrote an email from Vandermeir to the Irvine Democrats group that contained glowing bios of endorsed Democrats Fox and Mayoral candidate Mary Ann Gaido but offered no basis for supporting Khan based on her experience.  Vandermeir — who has been securing his position as the Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Orange County (which he’d likely take as a compliment) when it comes to weighing his thumb onto the scales — admitted that they (i.e., he) had made a mistake and should have had Khan review the letter sent out under his name about the DPOC-endorsed candidates before it went out.  (Easy mistake!  Letting a rival candidate write it to her own advantage is just normal procedure, I presume!)

So, after all that, it sure is nice to see everyone getting along.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)