• signs on the side of a road

      Wahl and Kwong signs in South Pasadena (Photo – Steven Qiu)

      It’s three weeks from election day and ballots are already out.

      By Melissa Michelson

      As we get closer, candidates start to feel the pressure. More and more lawn signs start popping up, candidates flush with cash push out a few more glossy mailers, and the negative campaign tactics begin.

      Take for example a usually benign race for Pasadena City College Board of Trustee. In District 5, which for the most part encompasses South Pasadena, San Marino, and parts of Temple City, the race between incumbent Linda Wah and challenger Kristine Kwong is heating up.

      In order to oust a long-time incumbent, there needs to be reason to do so. In this case, Kwong cites Wah’s lack of sound leadership on the Board of Trustees. Posted front and center on Kwong’s website: “We cannot allow apathy, dysfunction, or mismanagement to keep students from succeeding. That’s why Kristine Kwong is running for the PCC Board of Trustees.”

      Accordingly, her campaign materials convey the same consistent message: the incumbent needs to go.

      One mailer lists a series of facts:

      • PCC was placed on academic probation from accreditation
      • A judge voided the college board’s severance package to the former PCC president, referring to Mark Rocha whom the Board themselves had hired and who was one of PCC’s worst presidents
      • PCC has had six presidents come and go in the past ten years
      • There’s been a recent vote of no confidence in the current leadership (See here and here).

      Another of Kwong’s flyers highlights Wah’s exorbitant travel expenses of $52k since 2015 and PCC’s dropping student enrollment.

      It is within the public’s right to know about their elected representative’s record, especially when such a record is not regularly reported or when typical voters don’t know where to get trustworthy information.

      Mud Slinging

      In response to Kwong’s materials, Linda Wah sent out an email to her supporters first making the unsubstantiated claim that she is “the unanimous choice” of community and student leaders, without saying which ones, then she played victim to Kwong’s review of her record, calling it a “smear”, when in fact, she is the one engaging in smear tactics.

      “…despite being the unanimous choice of our community and student leaders, my opponent continues to smear my campaign. The race that Krsitine Kwong has launched against me is getting uglier by the day.  Lies. Misrespresentations. Untruths. This has to stop.” – Linda Wah

      Then, rather than rebut any supposed ‘untruths’ in her record, Wah obfuscates her participatory role in the problems plaguing PCC, and in her email to her supporters tries to incite moral outrage from Kwong’s past lapses in her personal voting record in local elections.

      These tactics aim to distract voters from the issues at the college and pit them against a candidate who wants to elevate board ethics – after all, in 2015, PCC was put on probation with the state-wide accrediting body that cited one reason as being the board of trustees (Wah et.al) weren’t following their own ethics policies.

      It gets worse

      If all of that isn’t bad enough, the email then directed her supporters on a mass fishing expedition to reel in any dirt they could provide to Wah about her opponent vis a vis an intake form on a new website paid for by Linda Wah’s campaign, taking over Kwong’s name as the domain.

      As of the time of this publishing, the intake box is now gone but the page is still live. You can see the intake form before it was taken down in this screengrab.

      It’s precisely smear tactics such as Linda Wah’s that make voters weary of politicians and apathetic to participating in the democratic process.

      Let’s not mistake the track record for character attacks. Let’s stick to the issues, stop feigning moral outrage over petty insignificancies and leave the virtue signaling* at the door. It’s time to retire dirty politics.

      *Virtue signaling: the action or practice of publicly expressing opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one’s good character or the moral correctness of one’s position on a particular issue.

      Melissa Michelson is a resident of SGV. This is her opinion.


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      1. Russell Wilson says:

        52k since 2015? So 7 years? thats less than 7.5k a year. It’s an INVESTMENT for PCC. Linda has been active in community college advocacy at the statewide and national levels. This attack is pathetic. Linda serves on numerous boards where she constantly advocates on behalf of PCC as a representative. What has Kristine done for PCC representation? A charter school advocate clown.

        • Joshua Johnson says:

          I guess I have to thank Wah for sending out a text message telling me about the election. If I hadn’t gotten that, I probably wouldn’t have voted against her.

          Picking your opponents name then creating a website using that for a smear campaign was enough to turn me off. But hearing about how it had a form asking for more dirt just cements my thoughts even more so.

          plus , who traveled during the first year of the pandemic. it’s 52k over 6 years at most, 7 is a bit generous.

      2. Jacinta Lincke says:

        Why Kwong is running for the board of trustees at PCC is a mystery. She calls herself an “education attorney” is it because, in her law firm, where she is a partner, represents CHARTER SCHOOLS,?? Kwong addressed the 25th Annual Charter School Convention in San Diego in 2018. I believe that is why Una Jost withdrew her support of Kwong. You do know Charter Schools take money away from public schools, right? When Kwong spoke to me, trying to get my endorsement as a delegate to the LACDP, she didn’t even know there was a nursing dept. or culinary dept. at PCC !!!! Why would someone like this even want to be on the board of trustees of a PUBLIC COLLEGE? I just cannot imagine any progressive that would ever vote for Kwong, given her history. A LESSON TO ALL PROPERLY VET YOUR CANDIDATES

        • I.C.K. says:

          Kwong has been a lawyer for about 30 years. So out of about 10,000 days she has practiced law, she gave one speech to one charter school organization on one day. She is an education lawyer; she gives speeches to many places. That does not make her evil. If you look on Facebook, PCC hosted a visit by a charter school on April 21 of this year. That does not make PCC evil. It is so sad how people are just making up stuff to score points.

          • Jacinta says:

            What makes Kwong an education attorney ? That the law firm she is a partner in represents charter schools that siphon money from our public schools?

      3. Todd Jones says:

        The Linda Wah campaign has no shame. Purchasing the domain name of the opponent just to use it to smear that opponent is low. Tapping the general populace for dirt on the opponent is a tactic we see in the arena of juvenile clique wars. Campaigning that low is all they’ve got.

        They can’t argue the issues which face the community. It’s clear Linda Wah has no concern FOR the issues that face the community.

      4. V. K. says:

        The Linda Wah campaign only removed the form asking the public for dirt on her opponent after I sent them the following legal decision showing that there was potential huge legal liability for doing that. I pointed out to the campaign that, if asking the public for dirt on one’s opponents were ethical or legal, wouldn’t everyone be doing it? http://www.dwt.com/-/media/files/publications/2008/06/fair-housing-council-of-san-fernando-valley-v-room/files/roommates-article/fileattachment/pubs_roommates-article.pdf

      5. Dr J says:

        Michelson is NOT a union leader at PCC, which is easy enough to learn by looking at the union website.
        The current board members must go, Wah included. They either can’t learn from the past are don’t care to, best exemplified by their decision to unilaterally cut winter session in 2012, losing in court, and then doing it again in 2021, for which they will lose in court again. Wonder how much money they have wasted getting sued for their illegal actions…

      6. Steve says:

        Ms. Michelson for full disclosure should identify herself as a union leader at PCC, i. e., one of the folks that are sponsoring the campaign of this challenger and the others.

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