An anonymous mailer urging recipients to vote for the three female candidates for Palo Alto's school board went out to an unknown number of local homes this week, creating a stir due to its negative tone and apparent targeting of one candidate.
Titled "We Can Do Better ... School Board Candidates ... Vote For The Women," the one-page mailer includes five bullet points extolling the professional and school-related experiences of Gina Dalma, Catherine Crystal Foster (whose maiden name is misspelled throughout) and Terry Godfrey -- while at the same time characterizing candidate Ken Dauber negatively.
All three women have denied having anything to do with the mailer, and Dalma was the only of the three to actually receive it. Foster and Godfrey said not only did they not receive it, neither did any of their campaign members or supporters from whom they've heard.
"I was so disappointed," Dalma told the Weekly on Tuesday, the day the mailer arrived. In a follow up letter to the community, she added: "I publicly repudiate support deriving from any individual or group that resorts, on behalf of my candidacy or in opposition to that of my opponents, to the methods and tactics which I condemn, as this mailer does."
"I can say to you with 1,000 percent certainty, I have nothing to do with this," Foster said. "I have never heard of this before. ... That's not the way I do business. That's not the way my campaign does business."
Godfrey wrote in an email that, "At this point it seems like a prank, and I don't want to call attention to it with a response to something only a handful of people have seen."
The mailer's five bullet points, which conclude with, "If you are looking for clear, informed and intelligent decisions for our students, VOTE for: Catherine Chrystal Foster -- Terry Godfrey -- Gina Dalma," are listed under the title, "What Palo Alto Weekly Won't Tell You."
Each of the first three bullet points of the mailer start by making a negative reference about Dauber -- without naming him -- and then offering a piece of positive information about each of the female candidates. We Can Do Better is also the name of the group Dauber co-founded in 2011.
"While others have been attending all the school board meetings lashing out against the current Board members on any program they are considering, Gina Dalma has been leading the education portfolio for SVCF (Silicon Valley Community Foundation) where she heads the regional effort to support Silicon Valley school districts to adopt the new Common Core State standards and is a leading public advocate for educational excellence for all students in our region," one bullet point reads.
Dauber, who also got the mailer and denied any knowledge of its origins, refuted the piece's claim.
"On the contrary," he told the Weekly in an email. "I've successfully worked with the board for years to make progress on issues like homework policy, modifying high school graduation requirements to ensure that all graduates are college-ready, changing the calendar to provide pre-break finals for our high school students, and many others."
Questions about the mailer remain, including whether it was sent by someone truly advocating for the female candidates or someone wanting to cast those candidates in a negative light.
Foster wondered if it was a "stunt from a rogue supporter" of Dauber's campaign, designed to generate bad publicity.
"My campaign does not stoop to negative or anonymous campaigning," she wrote in an email. "I am running on a strong, positive message, an extensive record of service to children and the community, and an unmatched breadth and depth of support from community members and elected officials alike."
But Dauber denied it could be from his supporters.
"I'm surprised to hear that kind of speculation," he said. "I don't believe any supporter of mine would send a mailer making false statements about me, and I am going to refrain from any public speculation at all about who is behind it."
It's also unclear how many people have received the mailer -- numerous community members whom the Weekly reached out to had not -- but if more than 200, the mass mailing would be considered illegal under election law governed by the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) due to its anonymity.
The mailer has no signature, indication who paid for it or return address. It carried a San Francisco postmark of Oct. 11 with a first class stamp.
Dauber said if it indeed went out to more than 200 people, he would support an investigation.
Foster said she wouldn't call for an investigation of the mailer at a point when few people have reported receiving it.
"This is trivial and stupid, and I don't want to waste public dollars pursuing it," she wrote in an email. "If this grows into something more significant, I will reassess then."