A lively race for the District 6 seat on the Fresno City Council got more heated this week with a verbal dustup between candidates Garry Bredefeld and Holly Carter over Carter’s accusation – which was false – that Bredefeld used Nazi symbolism during a protest when he was a member of the council from 1997 to 2001.
During a town hall forum Tuesday night at northeast Fresno’s Islamic Cultural Center, Carter – who owns a public relations / communications company – told the audience that Bredefeld once waved “a Nazi sign” during a rally protesting a Fresno business.
Bredefeld, a practicing psychologist, was raised in a Jewish family and earned his master’s degree at Yeshiva University in New York before converting to Christianity about 20 years ago. He immediately condemned the sign allegation as a lie and challenged Carter for proof.
“I’m not lying,” Carter responded. “I was told that’s what happened.”
“You were told about it?” an incredulous Bredefeld said, adding that if Carter was make such an accusation, she needed to offer proof. From the audience, Bredefeld’s wife Susan called out that her husband “was raised Jewish; he would never wave a Nazi sign.”
The exchange occurred as the candidates addressed a question about project labor agreements requiring contractors for city public works projects to hire union labor for the work. The discussion degenerated into a crossfire between Bredefeld and Carter over dueling union endorsements.
A short time later, in response to a question about negative campaigning in presidential politics, Carter said “I will not be involved in any negative campaigning.”
Bredefeld said, “We saw a smear campaign today when she said I waved a Nazi sign.” Bredefeld added that he too would avoid negative campaigning, “but when I’m attacked, I will respond … and I know how to respond.”
In an email early Wednesday morning, Bredefeld insisted again that Carter’s statement about a Nazi sign “is an outrageous lie, I strongly told her so, and then challenged her to provide proof of her allegation, which of course she could not as it never happened.”
On Wednesday, Carter attempted to backtrack on her remark, attributing the statement to people who told her about the 2000 rally that Bredefeld organized against a proposed development at Friant Road and Audubon Drive in northeast Fresno. She referred to a 2000 story from The Bee reporting that it was a now-retired Fresno State professor who held a sign with the initials “KKK” in reference to the developers, “Kashian, Koligian and Kompany.” According to the report, the professor apologized for the offensive sign and said Bredefeld had nothing to do with the sign.
“I erroneously used the term ‘Nazi’ instead of ‘KKK,’ and I accept the responsibility for that,” Carter said in a news release. “But I was accused of fabricating an incident that clearly happened and I am presenting the proof,” she said, referring not to the sign accusation but to the rally itself.
“As I said last night, I was told he was holding the sign,” Carter said later in a telephone interview. “The issue is not about hate speech. The issue is that a sitting city council member organized a protest against a Fresno business. … I did not articulate correctly. That was my mistake.” Carter declined to say who told her Bredefeld held the offensive sign.
At the conclusion of the event, Carter apologized to Bredefeld – after the microphones were turned off. “I apologized to him and to his wife for offending them. I told them I would get to the bottom of this and find out what really happened,” she said Wednesday, again referring to The Bee’s report about the rally.
“I’m not a politician, I’m not polished,” added Carter, who lists crisis communications as a specialty of her PR firm. “I’m not a seasoned communicator in the field of politics. … He organized the protest. That’s what I should have stuck to.”
A third candidate for the council seat, businessman / Elvis Presley impersonator Jeremy Pearce, did not attend the town hall. The race also features a fourth candidate who was not at the event, student and pizzeria manager Carter Pope II.
The four are running in the June 7 primary to replace incumbent Lee Brand, who is running for mayor. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the votes, the top two will enter a runoff on the November general election.