For a serial officeholder, Paul Fong sure has issues running smooth campaigns. The state assemblyman who carpet-bagged his way from Cupertino to San Jose to run for a seat on the City Council first found trouble this year when San Jose Inside reported that he owed his former campaign manager/lobbyist Richie Ross $100,000 dating back to 2008. Fong made no efforts to pay off the debt during his six years in the state legislature but supported all of the bills Ross’ clients sponsored. Then in February, Fong violated campaign law by using a photo of him and a San Jose police officer in uniform for political ads. Now his campaign manager, Dennis Chiu, has injected race into the District 1 fight against Charles “Chappie” Jones by sending out an inflammatory email to supporters in response to a mildly critical mail piece. Before attacking the mail piece, Chiu goes after Jones’ campaign manager, Vic Ajlouny, calling him a “Palestinian activist, who served as a high-ranking member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in the 1990s.” He added that Ajlouny is known for his negative political attack. “This is all about making people think Chappie has a terrorist working for him,” Ajlouny told Fly. “It is racism at its worst.” San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, who relies on Ajlouny’s political advice, as well as the local NAACP chapter, blasted Fong, calling his campaign’s comments “racist” and “xenophobic.” They also noted that just this summer Fong was calling for Fox News host Bob Beckel to resign over despicable comments about the Chinese. Chiu told Fly he wanted to apologize to Ajlouny, saying it was not his “intention to bring race into the campaign,” and, “I would never have assumed that he would take offense to the mention.” Chiu then asked for Ajlouny’s phone number so the two could talk. Ajlouny said their conversation, and Chiu’s explanation, has not resolved the matter.
UPDATE: Paul Fong's consultant firm Terris Barnes Walters sent out a press release Wednesday afternoon announcing the resignation of campaign manager Dennis Chiu. He will be replaced by Patrick Ahrens. Below is the full release.
“FONG CAMPAIGN STAFFING ANOUNCEMENT
Paul Fong made the following announcement: Today, in order to move forward, refocus on the issues truly affecting the residents of District 1, and to be sensitive to the concerns expressed over the last couple days by members of the Palestinian and other Middle Eastern communities, I accepted the resignation of my Campaign Manager, Dennis Chiu.”
Several members of the Palestinian community were offended by an email written by Chiu on Monday to Fong contributors that referenced Fong’s opponent’s political consultant, Vic Ajlouny, as being a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). According to news reports, Ajlouny had not been a member of the PLO, but had advised its chairman, Yasser Arafat.
Chiu admitted making a mistake and apologized directly to Ajlouny and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on the same day the email was released. Chiu also apologized to the larger community on television and in radio interviews on Tuesday.
Fong stated, “What Dennis did was wrong, and I’m taking this action to state that clearly. However, I have known him for almost 18 years. He has a long history of fighting against discrimination and for the civil rights of Asian Pacific Americans and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. I do not believe that Dennis ever intentionally attempted to insert race in to the campaign.”
Chiu stated, “Having experienced discrimination as a gay Chinese American, I am profoundly and sincerely saddened that I caused hurt to another minority community.” Chiu pledged to proactively reach out to members of the communities that voiced anger and disappointment to learn, listen and become better informed, so he can grow from this incident. Fong also directed Chiu to enroll in sensitivity training.
Fong announced that his current Field Director, Patrick Ahrens, is promoted to the position of Campaign Manager. Ahrens has previously worked on other campaigns, including Congresswoman Janice Hahn’s in Los Angeles.
The Fong campaign announced that the changes are effective immediately."