Vote for Noah Phillips anyway

In the Sacramento County DA’s race, the stakes are too high

In 1988, Lee Atwater, a ruthless political strategist, came up with the most notorious attack campaign of all time by suggesting that candidate Mike Dukakis was responsible for a series of murders committed by a parolee named Willie Horton. The campaign, and the television ad featuring the mug shot of Horton, an African American, are still discussed in political communications classes today.

I was reminded of this campaign today watching an ad released Monday by District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s campaign. Featuring a reference to the website, the ad is designed to frighten the supporters of her opponent, Noah Phillips. Mimicking the Willie Horton ad, it lingers on the mug shot of an African-American man who was involved in a case Phillips prosecuted. I will never be convinced that this ad was not designed to incite voters who are witnessing the Black Lives Matter protest against Schubert into seeing that protest as an “attack against Sacramento.”

That is despicable.

The Sacramento Under Attack website says: “Phillips supports reducing punishment for sex crimes. Including rape on an unconscious victim and lewd acts with a child.” As evidence, it simply cites his support for California Proposition 57, which allows parole consideration for nonviolent felons, and passed in 2006 with a 65 percent majority.

Two days after launching the attack ad, Schubert’s campaign leaked an email from Phillips to his uncle. This was a response to an unfunny, sexist email that the 70-year-old had sent to his nephew, and Phillips’ response was, without a doubt, inappropriate. The email might have disqualified him from getting my vote and endorsement in another campaign, but not this one. In this race, the stakes are too high.

Sacramento has been in the national news for a couple of years now because our city is symbolic of one of our nation’s most serious problems. The 10-foot fence surrounding our DA’s office is symbolic as well. Anne Marie Schubert’s meek response to officer-involved shootings in Sacramento show very poor judgment, as do this week’s desperate political moves. The only good news is that she might have some polling that shows she’s in trouble. Let’s hope so.