Zhao Promises to Decline School Board Seat — But Privately, Not Publicly

Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club revealed the discreet assurance for Josephine Zhao, who said she withdrew from the race, after canvassers were seen campaigning for her over the weekend.

Josephine Zhao committed to not accepting a school board seat if elected — but only privately, the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club said Wednesday.

The club says she reached out last week, apologizing for “racial slurs, name-calling, and her previous comments in opposition to transgender students” regarding gender-neutral bathrooms. Some comments include calling the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club “Cow Demons and Snake Spirits” to brag about her notoriety, claiming that the highest priorities for the five LGBT candidates would be to “spread ideologies,” and calling Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer “Chinese trash.”

After intensifying scrutiny for publicly apologizing while privately doubling down to her supporters on WeChat, Zhao announced just one month ago that she would step down from the race — after the deadline to remove her name from the ballot. Over the phone with folks from Alice B. Toklas, she committed to them that she wouldn’t take a seat as school board member if elected anyways. 

But Zhao stopped short of promising to make a public announcement to clear up the confusion for voters. When told the club would make it public if she didn’t, Zhao asked to wait until Monday to do so on her own terms.

The announcement never came from Zhao, prompting Alice B. Toklas co-chairs Eric Lukoff and Gina Simi to publicize the promise on Wednesday.

“Josephine told us that it was not the right time for her to hold public office, and she committed to us personally that she would not accept the seat,” the co-chairs wrote on Facebook. “While we appreciate that Josephine has committed to us that she won’t serve either way, we still hope that she will make that statement publicly.”

A request for comment was not returned by Zhao Wednesday afternoon.

Concerning them and others further, a handful of Zhao’s supporters were spotted distributing flyers — paid for by her campaign — at the SFUSD enrollment fair on Saturday. Two days earlier, Bay City Beacon ran a guest opinion by a self-identified gay Chinese woman “to promote Josephine’s credentials as an LGBT ally,” as Alice B. Toklas put it. Zhao’s campaign fundraising has also surpassed $90,000, up from the nearly $78,000 in her coffers when she said she would bow out of the race.

“We believe Josephine can begin an honest effort to rebuild and repair her reputation and relationships in the community, which she has expressed interest in doing,” Alice B. Toklas wrote. “To that end, while we understand that she cannot control what other people do, she should call for her supporters to stop campaigning on her behalf.

“We aren’t quite sure why she has not.”

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