Truth is a pretty fungible commodity during election season, and we all give candidates a little slack. But an oped in today’s Examiner by the chair of the local Democratic Party, Mary Jung, takes misinformation to an unusual level.
In the oped that appears under her name – which reads as if it was written by a political consultant, which means it probably was – Jung argues that the members of the progressive reform slate for the DCCC are in favor of policies that could lead to more sex trafficking.
How do you get there? By looking at the Harvey Milk LGBT Club questionnaires, which include a query about decriminalizing sex work:
10 “reform” candidates for the Democratic Central County Committee declared their support for legalized prostitution in San Francisco by banning all investigations and prosecution of it, opening the door to wide-spread sex trafficking in our city. All 10 of these candidates — Sophie Maxwell, Pratima Gupta, Rafael Mandelman, Cindy Wu, Petra DeJesus, Jon Golinger, Sandra Lee Fewer, Hene Kelly, Brigitte Davila and Norman Yee — appear on Aaron Peskin’s slate card of so-called “reform” candidates.
And let’s not forget that in 2008, the DCCC voted to endorse Prop. K, a sex-work decriminalization measure:
In 2008, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom and then-District Attorney Kamala Harris came out in strong opposition to Proposition K, a pro-prostitution measure, criticizing the so-called “progressive” proponents for failing to consider the implications that decriminalization would have on other issues often related to prostitution including drug use, sexual abuse and human trafficking. Feminist titan Gloria Steinem also opposed Prop. K because it was a “trafficker’s dream” and “would declare open season on women and children.” But the Peskin-chaired Democratic Party endorsed Prop. K.
Gee, that sounds awful.
Now for a little reality:
Seven of the candidates on Mary Jung’s own real-estate slate told the Milk Club the exact same thing as the people she is blasting – they support decriminalizing sex work. Her own people are taking the same position that she claims is “pro-sex-trafficking.” Which would mean she should be against all of them, too.
Here, according to the Milk Club, are Mary Jung’s candidates who took the same position as the people she wants to scare voters away from: Arlo Hale Smith, Zoe Dunning, Joshua Arce, Alix Rosenthal, Keith Baraka, Joel Engardio, Trevor McNeil, and Marjan Philhour.
Leah Pimentel, who is also on the real-estate slate, supported decriminalization in 2012, and told the Milk Club: “This is a win for all women. Decriminalization of sex work will not on its own stop the injustices experienced by sex industry workers. However, it is an important first step to improve the health and safety of sex industry workers, and communities overall.”
Four years later, she changed her position.
Gary McCoy, another member of Jung’s slate, submitted a questionnaire in which he said he supported decriminalization. Then he contacted the Milk Club and said he was withdrawing his questionnaire, for reasons he didn’t explain.
Oh, and guess what else? Aaron Peskin, who is supposedly running this “machine,” voted AGAINST Prop. K in 2008.
Now let’s go beyond the utter hypocrisy (Mary, if support for decriminalization is so awful, why don’t you go after all of the people who take that position, not just the ones who wants to get the real-estate industry out of the local Democratic Party?)
Let’s actually take a look at the issue for a moment.
Decriminalizing sex work is increasingly a mainstream position. Amnesty International and the World Health Organization are on record endorsing the idea. There’s a very good argument that legalization would take the industry out of the shadows – and make sex trafficking laws easier to enforce.
Pratima Gupta, a physician who is the medical director for the St. James Infirmary, which provides medical care to sex workers, said that from a public-health perspective, “decriminalization makes perfect sense.”
She said that sex trafficking – forced labor – is abhorrent. “Nobody should be forced into labor of any kind,” she said. But to conflate the issue of decriminalization with sex trafficking is absurd.”
In fact, Gupta, who is a candidate on the reform slate, told me that “decriminalization is a feminist empowerment issue for adult consensual sex.”
Apparently, many of Jung’s endorsed slate-mates agree.
I called Jung at the Board of Realtors, where she works, and I emailed her to ask if she is still endorsing the nine candidates on her slate who support decriminalization. No response.
Because there is no credible response here. It’s just giant hypocrisy. From someone who wants to lead the local Democratic Party for another four years.
The reality: This election has very little to do with the decriminalization of sex work and everything to do with whether Jung’s real-estate and tech-industry-backed candidates win the DCCC, and have the power to oppose progressives in the November supervisorial elections. It’s about who runs the city, and it’s kind of gross that she has dragged sex workers in as political pawns in her power game.