Islamophobic campaign mailer disrupts Twin Rivers school board race

Nobody wants to take credit for mailer claiming that candidate Basim Elkarra has ties to religious extremists

Another scandal in the Twin Rivers Unified School District has cast an ugly pall over an upcoming special election.

Murmurs of racism have uglied up May 12’s vote, when residents of the district’s Area Five will choose between Sonja Cameron and Basim Elkarra.

Area One trustee Michael Baker told SN&R that his in-laws recently received something disturbing in their mailbox: a flier branding Elkarra as having ties to religious extremism and Islamic terrorism.

The flier calls Elkarra an “outsider,” accuses him of terrorist ties as part of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and includes pictures him with women in headscarves. Elkarra said he does work with CAIR, but says it is a civil-rights organization.

It’s not clear who distributed Islamophobic campaign materials. The Clarion Project, a Washington D.C.-based organization that proposes to “challenge extremism,” is cited on the flier but has denied responsibility.

It’s also uncertain how many fliers were produced or distributed, or whether the Fair Political Practices Commission will investigate.

Cameron emphatically denies any involvement in distributing the inflammatory material, saying it makes her “sick to even talk about it.”

A Denmark native, Cameron said she herself was treated poorly upon coming to the states 45 years ago, a bride of a black Air Force member. “Why would I put something like that out there?” she said.

The special election has been contentious so far. Cameron said her election committee distributed a letter to voters expressing support for a discussion about moving Regency Park Elementary from Twin Rivers to the Natomas School District. For that, she’s received some blowback. But “everyone I talked to, including my old community, feels we naturally belong in the Natomas School District,” Cameron said.

She added that many families in Area Five send their kids to the geographically closer Natomas District schools, and that many are not happy with Twin Rivers. “What I want is for Twin Rivers to explore this,” she said, calling it a “crucial conversation.”

Cameron was appointed by the district in December to fill the spot left vacant by Cortez Quinn, who was sentenced to jail for receiving loans and gifts from a district employee and conspiring to obstruct justice in a paternity case.

But the Democratic Party of Sacramento County promptly took issue with the appointment, stalled it, and successfully collected signatures to force a special election.

Cameron has no campaign website, no Facebook page. And she’s sought only local endorsements. “I’m not a politician,” she said. “The school board is nonpartisan.”

Elkarra, on the other hand, is endorsed by multiple elected officials, including many high-powered Democrats.