Berkeley City Council candidate Cecilia Rosales’ campaign materials stir controversy

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Ketki Samel/Staff

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Cecilia “Ces” Rosales, a candidate for Berkeley City Council’s District 7 seat, generated controversy by using a photo of community members without their consent in campaign materials and by identifying herself as the “1st Asian Candidate for Berkeley City Council in 40 years.”

The photo in question, which was taken at a More Student Housing Now press conference, is the current cover photo for Rosales’ campaign Facebook page and is printed on her campaign mailers. Rosales’ opponents for the District 7 seat — Rigel Robinson and Aidan Hill — as well as Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who endorsed Robinson, are in the photo. Students featured include ASUC Senators Amir Wright, Anna Whitney and Andy Theocharous, all of whom endorsed Robinson.

“All three candidates are in there to show that there is a common goal we’re all working towards,” Rosales said. “Later on I realized it isn’t so bad because nobody could say that I’m biased because Rigel and Aidan are in there, and so is Kriss and so are many other students, because we all want affordable housing.”

Wright saw his photo on campaign mailers when they were distributed and passed out during an ASUC Senate meeting Oct. 10.

Wright said he wishes he was contacted before the image was used, especially since he believes the photo implies that he and the other students in the photo endorsed Rosales. As a response, Wright tagged Rosales in a Facebook post and asked her to issue a disclaimer.

“I was pretty taken aback when I saw it,” Wright said. “She came by in the senate and she passed around her mailer and I saw my picture on the front, which I thought was interesting because I had never been contacted.”

Varsha Sarveshwar, campaign manager for Robinson, said the Robinson campaign tries to be attentive when finding images to use for campaign materials. She added that she hopes Robinson’s image in the campaign materials was an “honest mistake.”

David Ying, co-executive of More Student Housing Now, said in an email that regardless of Rosales’ intent, the choice to use the image is “pretty misleading.”

Ying said the organization has not endorsed any candidate for City Council and would like Rosales to indicate that the photo does not imply support, or remove the image.

Rosales has also generated confusion by campaigning as the “1st Asian Candidate for Berkeley City Council in 40 years.” Other candidates running in 2018 also identify as Asian American; Robinson, for example, identifies as Korean American, and Randy Gee and William Shei — who both identified as Asian American — ran for the District 7 seat in the 1990s.

“Her statement is obviously not true,” Sarveshwar said. “It would imply that Rigel is not an Asian American candidate when he obviously is.”

Rosales explained that she was inspired by Ying Lee, the only Asian American to serve on Berkeley City Council in about 40 years. She said she did not intend for her claim to be “misleading.”

Rosales clarified that she is not the first Asian candidate running, but could be the first Asian politician elected to Berkeley City Council in 40 years.

“Either one of us (Rosales or Robinson) could claim that title as the first Asian to be on the council in 40 years.” Rosales said.

Contact Ronit Sholkoff at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @RonitSholkoff.