Mayoral campaign mail ad portrays candidate like gang member

SAN DIEGO - They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and one particular mayoral campaign ad seems to be conjuring up images of a gang member.

The mailer in question involves mayoral candidate David Alvarez holding a fist full of cash.

10News anchor Itica Milanes spoke with Tom Shepard, a political consultant who believes there is a very subtle message in the mailer ad that could have a powerful impact.

"It's a hand gesture specifically associated with gang members," he said.

Shepard is considered a kingmaker when it comes to San Diego politics. He ran the campaigns that got both Jerry Sanders and Bob Filner elected mayor.

He believes the picture in the mailer was edited to make Alvarez look sinister and like a gang member.

The ad was created and paid for by the Lincoln Club of San Diego County, a Republican political group.

There is not a single mention on the ad of any gang association, but Shepard said the images subtly but clearly insinuate a connection.

With just 36 days left until Election Day, the gloves are coming off.

"Visual images, photographs in mailers and on TV have a significant impact on voter attitudes," Shepard said.

Alvarez's opponent, Kevin Faulconer, said he had nothing to do with it but negative ads are part of the drill during campaigning.

"I have certainly been on the receiving end of many attacks and I'm sure I will be," Faulconer said.

A representative for Alvarez's campaign responded by saying, "It's a low hit on David. It shows they are scared to have David in office."

Shepard evaluates campaign ads on three criteria – if they are factual, relevant and fair. In this case, he said the mailer is factual and relevant.

"Is this fair?" Shepard said, "I don't think so."

Despite the nastiness that comes with politics, Shepard added that there are boundaries.

"Using racism as a tactic in a campaign is one of the things that is not considered ethical," he said.

10News reached out to The Lincoln Club about the mailer and received this statement, "It's an image of a politician in a suit … The ad was mailed throughout the city because all San Diegans share a distaste for politicians beholden to government employee unions."

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