Mayor London Breed
© REUTERS/Stephen Lam
San Francisco Mayor London Breed speaks during the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club Annual Pride Breakfast in support of the LGBTQ community in San Francisco, California, U.S. June 30, 2019.
A Republican election poster intended as a caricature of incumbent San Francisco mayor London Breed, showing her with her feet on the table, counting dollar bills and puffing a joint, has sparked accusations of racism.

The poster popped up on the streets of the Golden City as it braces for mayoral elections set for November 5. The ad was sponsored by the only Republican candidate in the race, Chinese-American Ellen Lee Zhou.

Made in a cartoonish style, the poster shows a black woman in a red clinging dress sitting with her high heels kicked up on a desk. The woman clutches a stack of greenbacks in her left hand and a joint in the right and appears to be dreaming. A long queue of people with price tags hanging around their necks is drawn in a thought bubble coming from the woman's head. In the left corner of the poster, a man with a pack of dollar bills is carrying away a toddler. "Stop slavery and human trafficking in SF. Vote Nov.5, 2019 Ellen Zhou for Mayor," the slogan reads.


Zhou, the only Republican challenging incumbent mayor London Breed, has faced a barrage of criticism over the poster, which Democrats argue is an example of racial baiting.

"This blatantly racist and sexist ad has no place in our political discourse or our city," Maggie Muir, adviser for Breed, told the Hill.

Breed herself said that she was "pretty shocked" by the display, adding many supporters who "were really upset and hurt and outraged" reached out to her as well.

Another Democrat, California Assemblyman David Chiu, has joined the outrage, saying that the ad "perpetuates racist, sexist and misogynistic stereotypes."

Faced with backlash, Zhou did not back down, insisting there was nothing racist about the poster. Firing back at her critics, the politician said that whoever tries to play a racial card had been "brainwashed."

"No matter what — you look at my face — I am not a racist. I am Chinese-American. I am running for mayor. I care about San Francisco," she said, adding that by refusing debates with either of her opponents, three of whom are Caucasian men and two are Asian Americans, Breed behaves like a racist herself.

Zhou argued that the poster was merely a satirical take on Breed's policies. "The mayor makes $350,000 a year while people are dying on the streets — they have to pick their dead bodies up. A mayor getting a big fat raise while people are dying," she said.

While many on social media sided with Breed, other netizens called her out for brushing off all the criticism by invoking her race and gender without addressing the issue at hand.

"It's a stupid billboard with abysmal artwork to boot. Yet London Breed happens to be black, so it's hard for me to see the racism here. Politicians counting money has been a staple of political cartoons for hundreds of years," one commenter tweeted.