SF Pride parade route crossed campaign trail despite politicking ban 

Criticisms and complaints about the unusual amount of political campaigning that was part of Sunday’s Pride Parade are being fielded by organizers, who are concerned the politicking could interfere with the financially troubled event’s nonprofit status.

There has been a long-standing policy prohibiting campaigning along the parade route, according to San Francisco Pride Executive Director Brendan Behan. Anyone who is running for office can participate in the parade — but as an individual, not a candidate for office. Handing out campaign literature, having people sign petitions and in-your-face sloganeering are barred.

However, candidates have skirted the rules in the past by bringing volunteers to hold campaign signs, but with the office they are seeking covered or scribbled out.

By Monday, Behan had already received multiple emails complaining about the politicking at Sunday’s parade. He did not identify who sent the complaints.

One of the problems with making the parade too political is the threat to the nonprofit tax-exempt status of the organization, because it is illegal for a nonprofit to support political candidates. Parade organizers have been struggling with debt left over from previous festivities. The organization had a $225,000 shortfall, although that debt was trimmed to $77,000, Behan said.

“The one thing that I will say is that when people participate in Pride, we hope that people support our nonprofit status, and our nonprofit status is dependent on not having campaign slogans,” Behan said.

While several candidates covered up the offices they are seeking, their messages were loud and clear.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s supporters followed him while holding “I Scream for Herrera” signs shaped like ice cream cones. Former Supervisor Bevan Dufty had rainbow flags covering the “mayor” portion of his signs. District Attorney George Gascón’s supporters carried signs with his slogan covered by blue tape.

And Mayor Ed Lee — who has repeatedly said he isn’t running to keep the job, but is coming under increasing pressure from outside influences to do so — was flanked by staffers and department heads all wearing black-and-orange shirts with Lee’s face and signature on the front. On the back, the shirts read “Team Lee” with the number 43, denoting that he is the 43rd mayor of San Francisco.

District attorney candidate David Onek walked in the parade with signs that said he is a “reformer,” and the office he is running for was scribbled out. Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting, who is running for mayor, was followed by supporters in “Reset Marriage” shirts, a subtle reminder of his campaign website Reset San Francisco.

Political consultants said candidates follow the convention that simply covering the campaign language is acceptable. This year, however, there are dozens of candidates for various offices.

“In San Francisco, every other person is running for something,” said Eric Jaye, who runs both Onek and Ting’s campaigns.


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