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Rabbitt acknowledges pain caused by sanctuary mailer

David Rabbitt


Almost two months after the election, a highly controversial mailer that is still causing pain and concern throughout the Latino community surfaced again at Monday’s City Council meeting.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, a number of speakers raised the issue of the “racist” and “dehumanizing” campaign mailer sent by a group of business interests opposing Pam Torliatt’s supervisorial campaign.

The mailer, sent to voters in the county’s 2nd District in late October, called into question Torliatt’s stance on the possibility of providing sanctuary status for illegal immigrants in Sonoma County.

At a Latino conference leading up to the election, Torliatt said she would consider supporting the sanctuary policy. County law enforcement officials later said that they don’t check immigration status and that current policy is not far from a sanctuary policy.

Citizens for Transportation Funding - "Sanctuary"

The mailer samples headlines from The Press-Democrat and San Francisco Chronicle in an attempt to link the 2008 murders of a San Francisco family by an illegal immigrant to sanctuary policies in San Francisco. The mailer was titled “Torliatt’s sanctuary idea is no picnic” and implied that the murders — which happened as the family was returning from a picnic — could happen in Sonoma County if the policy was in place. The mailer was not sent by Supervisor-elect David Rabbitt’s campaign, but rather an independent organization supporting Rabbitt called the Citizens for Transportation Funding.

Speakers on Monday condemned the attempt to link immigrants to violence as well as the pain that the mailers had caused Latinos, who make up the majority of immigrants in Sonoma County and California.

Petaluman Carl Patrick said that the mailer was “insinuating that Latinos are going to murder innocent white families at a picnic,” and said that although he was not a Torliatt supporter, the mailer was “quite offensive” to all immigrants.

“It was implying that a single group created a complex social problem,” said Petaluma resident Barry Bussewitz. Bussewitz said that the mailer was “scapegoating” immigrants.

Some also called on Rabbitt to distance himself further from the mailer, taking issue to him first responding to the mailer by saying “it is what it is” when asked about it by the Press Democrat.

But on Monday, Rabbitt acknowledged the pain that the mailer had caused and said that he would have designed the mailer differently if it was up to him.

“I can tell you that the first time I saw that piece was when I pulled it out of my mailbox,” Rabbitt said.

“The sad fact is that no matter how advanced we think we are, discrimination exists,” he said. “Many of us don’t feel it directly like others do.”

While Rabbitt said that he thinks that sanctuary is an important issue and reiterated his position against the policy, he pledged to work together with Latinos as supervisor when he takes office in January.

“I will have a dialogue with the Latino community,” he said.

Latino leaders said they were pleased by Rabbitt’s response.

“The mailers threw a barrier between him and the Latino community,” said Holly Jaramillo, secretary of the Sonoma County Latino Democratic Club. “We are really grateful that he recognized the harm that these mailers do.”

Jaramillo said that a number of speakers coordinated to come forward at the meeting because “we felt that it was important for him to speak to the issue.”

“He did just that,” she said. “He acknowledged that it hurt. We are more than happy to work with Mr. Rabbitt.”

Jaramillo at the meeting also announced the formation of a group of local organizations that plan to fight racism in the county. She said that the group would soon be distributing a pledge to elected officials and candidates asking them to promise not to use racist language in their campaigns and denounce racist language in support of their candidacy.

Jaramillo called the formation of the yet-unnamed group and the dialogue with Rabbitt was “sort of a silver lining” to the hurtful mailer.

Click here to read the story on Petaluma 360, the Argus Courier website.

20 Responses to “Rabbitt acknowledges pain caused by sanctuary mailer”

  1. Graeme Wellington says:

    The Press Democrat created the issue by re-publishing in full the complete attack ads in the regular newspaper. The “news” content was that attack ads were being published.

    Most people, including me discarded the ads without a thought and without reading it.

    If someone just went around to newspaper boxes and placed a racist notice — I mean really racist — all the real racists would have to do is call up the Press Democrat and complain.

    “Hey, I bought a paper and it had this racist pamphlet in it. Who’s responsible for this?” The Press Democrat would get a copy of the racist pamphlet from the same newspaper box and the next day, there would be a story about the fake pamphlet racists stuck into the newspaper box. Of course, they have to reproduce the actual pamphlet in the regular newspaper, it’s news.

    And there you have it. A completely meaningless and utterly ineffectual racist flyer gets published for free and read by thousands who would have never even known it was there except for the Press Democrat manufacturing a news story.

    The re-publication of the attack ads is no different. It’s easy to clown the Press Democrat. Is it that they can’t help themselves? Or do they know what they are doing when they print this stuff? What do you think?

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  2. Breathe. says:

    It’s like all of the sudden, people are outraged about “hit pieces” during a political campaign.

    If you cast your vote according to a single piece of paper with less than 100 words on it, then I’m sorry for you.

    I find that the glossy sheets have right weight and desired smoothness to clean my fingernails.

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  3. Cotati station neighbor says:

    you should have denounced the mailer much more vehemently during the election to divorce yourself clearly from the perpetrators (those who produced the libelous bs mailer); now you’ll have an uphill battle ever making peace in your district.

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  4. Josh Stevens says:

    @be smart

    Read the article per your recommendation,and my position remains unchanged.

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  5. be smart says:

    For Josh Stevens, try reading the new PD article about the Sanctuary mailer, the Rabbitt campaign, the IEC, and the harm caused by all.

    Thumb up 19 Thumb down 24

  6. Josh Stevens says:

    The inability of Torliatt supporters to get over the election and move on is getting disturbing.This issue over the mailer is a tiresome red herring,she was a poor candidate without the sanctuary gaffe.

    No more stories on this matter!

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  7. bear says:

    In an ag county totally dependent on illegal labor, it is laughable that this should be an issue.

    If you like illegal immigration, all you have to do is stand quiet and enjoy the profitable status quo for the wine industry. Regardless of the pesky moral issues associated with exploiting an illegal work force.

    If you don’t like illegal immigration, all you have to do is enforce existing law against those who hire illegals. And maybe pay a bit more for your Reserve Merlot?

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  8. Still waiting says:

    Not sure why it would be so hard fro Rabbitt to at least now specifically condemn the hit piece. Still waiting for him to actually do this. Simple questions:

    1. Supervisor Rabbitt, do you condemn the hit pieces and wish you had spoken more clearly against them during the campaign – rather than just saying, “it is what it is”.

    2. Do you believe the current policy should change with respect to using local resources to prosecute immigration violations?

    3. If yes to question 2, what specifically would you propose be done as Supervisor and how would you propose paying for it? If no to question 2, why do you insist on continuing to state it was a valid issue to raise in the campaign, while now that you are elected, you haven’t provided any indication as to what you would do to change the policy.

    Finally, for those scratching their heads over what Rabbit said or didn’t say at the last council meeting, watch it for yourself:


    What you will see is that he acknowledged “the hurt”, continued to stress it was an independent group responsible (though he said confusingly that it would not be true to say it was out of his control entirely), and pledged to work for issues affecting latinos and expressed concern about racism. That’s great. But why not also state regret over his previous “it is what it is comment” which was quite neutral.

    Why did he decide not to speak up against it if he thought it was wrong then? What has changed now for him – to still not condemn the piece – but acknowledge the pain it caused. Simple. He didn’t want to undermine the usefulness of the issue (and hit pieces) during the campaign. Politics. He would gain more respect if he would simply, and more clearly, apologize for failing to condemn the hit pieces during the campaign, for waiting until he was called out for it at the council meeting, and still not really condemning it.

    It’s simple Rabbitt. Apologize clearly. Stop blaming others for misrepresenting your statements (“is what it is” is yours). Take responsibility for not condemning the hit piece when it arrived in your mail box. Pledge to help ensure those types of tactics are not used in the future. And if you don’t plan to suggest changes to current County policy with respect to immigration reform, drop it as an issue and admit we don’t currently have the resources to change he policy. If you aren’t man enough to do this, you have no business being in politics in our county. Those purporting to represent the Latino community in Sonoma County should demand nothing less. Otherwise, you are simply being used to cleanse his reputation – while he gets to move forward without ever really apologizing for not addressing this issue responsibly during the campaign.

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  9. Beef King says:

    To ‘be smart’-
    I don’t think there is such a thing as an “undecided right wing conservative bigot…in a closet…”.
    You should get points anyway, just for being absurd.
    For anyone to link Rabbit as a bigot or rascist is ridiculous, since he is well known by the local voting public as a fine individual, and to dismiss the impact of illegal immigrants on our crime sheets is to forego credibility in any argument on the topic.

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  10. be smart says:

    It’s good that communities are feeling empowered and determined to work toward equality and exposing hatred-racist-bigoted campaign literature that was part of the larger Rabbitt campaign, those who created the candidate and the campaign, and also put out the Steve Rustad series of disgusting political cartoons.

    Check out the funders of the IEC that timed the mailing of the “Sanctuary” Rabbitt PR piece to arrive just in time for the undecided right wing conservative bigots to come out of their closet and cast their vote.

    Kudos to Holly Jaramillo, Abraham Solar, Marjorie Helm, the young man named Patrick, and Barry Bussewitz for speaking in General Public Comment at the Petaluma City Council meeting this past Monday evening – to bring the ugliness and harm of these campaign tactics – which were not disavowed by Rabbitt at any time – and moving forward with empowerment and truth.

    The representation from South Sonoma County is now tainted, regardless of who the candidate was – it was Rabbitt and he won the election – and the PR machine devised to help him do that used all of their dirty tricks and ignorant and bigoted voters joined in to help elect him.

    This is what we have. Nothing new. Too bad for the greater community.

    Truth is empowering and wins in the long term, though. To the community and those who chose to stand up against racism, bigotry and hatred, more power to you. Thank you.

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  11. alternativnewz says:


    I haven’t been confused about Rabbitt’s motives for a number of years now, after observing him at Petaluma City Council meetings.

    Check out the archived Council meetings for clarification of whom Rabbitt works/votes for.

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  12. Really Big Fish says:

    As mentioned in a previus post I thought the “sancutary mailer” was very informative and appreciated being made aware of the potential violent problems associated with sancutary cities for illegal aliens. Just research yourself.

    Merry Christmas.

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  13. Beef King says:

    WSC posters never fail to amaze me.
    It seems that a few of these posts are so disconnected from the actual events it makes one wonder if they read or watched a different story than the one that is printed above these comments.
    Mr. Rabbit said that he first knew of the ad when he found it in his mailbox. How could he have done anything different except denounce the ad for it’s content.
    Secondly, the facts of the matter are that illegal immigrants are a source of crime that is well documented, and in fact are the primary victims of crimes by other illegal immigrants.
    I applaud Jaramillo stating that she is opposed to rascism. Maybe she should contact Lisa Maldonado and Laura Gonzalez to learn more about rascism in Sonoma County and the toxic effect it has on our political landscape.

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  14. Carleen says:

    Bla bla bla

    As long as Rabbitt does a good job who cares how much moola he makes.
    So what are you all supposed to be mind readers?
    How do you know that Mr Rabbitt knew about the fliers yeah I figured about the same as most of you thought Ms Torliatt would make this a santuary county.
    NEWS FLASH it is already a santuary county ,google it

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  15. News flash Torliatt lost! says:

    Get over it, Torliatt lost. She was sliding fast long before this mailer came out. Her position on a “sanctuary county” does not sit well with most people. She destroyed Petaluma’s tax base and spent too much time pandering to special interest groups.

    Rabbitt is a moderate democrat. Repeat, democrat. The progressive’s seem to have no problem crying about Torliatt being picked on while they throw rocks at Rabbitt. Think our way or else should be the new progressive mantra.

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  16. Tired of this says:

    Torliatt did not lose the race due to the sanctuary mailer that arrived 4 days prior to November 2nd. She lost at most a few hundred votes due to her position on this.

    I did not support Rabbitt. However, he is not a racist or a liar. The name calling on here is unnecessary and unreasonable.

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  17. clear as mud says:

    Like dutra, rabbit is playing both sides of this issue. So how in the heck are we supposed to tell when (and if) rabbit is telling the truth? He seems to be saying only what might possibly benefit him regardless of it’s truth or not.

    This is nothing but insulting spin and damage control. We deserve better than this.

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  18. Confused says:

    So this in interesting:

    ” County law enforcement officials later said that they don’t check immigration status and that current policy is not far from a sanctuary policy.”

    Then, the PD re-states Rabbitt’s position:

    “While Rabbitt said that he thinks that sanctuary is an important issue and reiterated his position against the policy, he pledged to work together with Latinos as supervisor when he takes office in January.”

    So I’m confused. Is he saying that he disagrees with current policy? If not, then why is he saying this is an issue? If so, does he intend to change policy and if so, where is the money going to come from to enforce immigration laws locally – his new $139K salary?

    Not sure why those concerned would be happy with his statement – he still failed to disavow the hit pieces and made no specific pledge not to use such tactics in the future. Acknowledging “hurt” is not the same as disavowing the tactic. Even his own hit pieces he was in control of highlighted the sanctuary issue – they just didn’t mention the murders in SF.
    Seems like he’s getting a pass on this.

    Here’s how Petaluma Patch covered it:


    “But during his 10 minute long comment on the issue, he did not condemn the piece and admitted that as a candidate he did have some control over the campaign literature the expenditure committee sent out.”

    So again, Rabbitt is playing both sides – just as he did on Dutra. He refuses to truly condemn the hit pieces, maintains the sanctuary issue is real (despite it being defacto County policy he hasn’t suggested should be changed).

    So why is it so hard for Rabbitt to simply say something like the following:

    “It was wrong, I am sorry, and I agree that these tactics should be condemned. In hindsight, I wish I had done more to discourage such tactics and apologize for making this an issue when, as the county Sheriff since explained, we don’t currently enforce federal immigration law in Sonoma County particularly given the scarce resources. I have learned much since and am deeply sorry that anything I did led to the creation and distribution of the hit piece. When I saw it in my mail box, I should have contacted the group and have it pulled. I should have also disavowed it sooner.”

    I submit Rabbitt knows all of this and that he, and his supporters, were simply tapping into anti-immigrant/latino sentiment that already exists for political points. This was never a matter of policy since Rabbitt has offered no real suggestion that the County’s policy should change – and no suggestions for funding such a change.

    Let’s all wait until he runs again, then a group can send an attack mailer about how Rabbitt promised he would be against sanctuary status, attacked (even in his own hit pieces) Mayor Torliatt on the issue, but failed to do anything about it once elected.

    With all the gushing from Latino leaders, it’s clear that Rabbitt is good at his game. They bought it hook line and sinker and now all is ok I guess. It’s a trick, just like it was a trick when a union rep who helped finance the hit pieces claimed he hadn’t seen them and that they went over the line. Jeez, Rabbitt didn’t even say that. He made a point in fact of again insisting it was a real issue.

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  19. RAB says:

    Take a little bit of time and do a little bit of research. Go back and read all of the articles related to these mailers, the Citizens for Transportation Funding, the Dutra plant, and especially the involvement of Robert Meulrath as a political consultant to both Rabbitt and Dutra. Apparently Mr. Rabbitt thinks we’re all a bunch of stupid idiots. After reviewing these articles and connecting the dots, any third grader could easily reach the conclusion that Mr. Rabbitt’s contention that he knew nothing of these mailers, is the biggest lie since “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” He appears to be exactly what the evidence indicates he is – a racist and a liar.

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  20. sheryl judge says:

    Now starts the back-pedalling. Shame on you!

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