Political Notebook

Campaign ad in Fresno council race questions length of residence for two candidates

A campaign mailer sent out by Brian Whelan, who is running for the District 7 Fresno City Council seat.
A campaign mailer sent out by Brian Whelan, who is running for the District 7 Fresno City Council seat.

Veva Islas, who is running for Fresno City Council in District 7, took to Facebook Wednesday to respond to negative mailers paid for by one of her competitors, Brian Whelan.

The mailers target Islas and fellow candidate Nelson Esparza, accusing them of moving into District 7 for their council runs. The mailers say Whelan has lived in the district for nine years and has a voting record in the district.

"Brian Whelan isn't just another politician,he's our neighbor," one ad reads. "He didn't move into our community to run for city council. Instead, he's raising his family here."

The mailers refer to Islas as "Veva Islas-Hooker," hyphenating her last name with her husband's last name. One of the mailers also shows Islas wearing a bike helmet.

Veva Islas screenshot.JPG
Veva Islas responds on Facebook to negative campaign ads mailed by Brian Whelan. Screenshot Facebook

Islas responded in two Facebook posts.

"I think he was trying to mock me as some dork with a helmet," she said, pointing out she's a licensed certified instructor with the League of American Cyclists. "…I’m a proponent for safety. I’m not embarrassed of my helmet at all. In fact, I think being safe while riding is sexy AF. He should be embarrassed for suggesting otherwise."

She included a photo of her at a cycling event and called on her Facebook friends to share photos of themselves sporting their bike helmets. "Let Brian know we plan to wear them when we ride to vote as well," she said.

In the second post, she addressed the last name used in the ads. "I haven't hyphenated my name in years. Apparently Brian feels it's his prerogative to use my husband's surname even when I don't. Brian, my name is Veva Islas, I hope you get it right when you congratulate me for winning like you did with Jim Costa."

In that post, she included screenshots from Whelan's Twitter profile depicting campaign photos for his 2012 congressional race against Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno.

Islas' husband, Keith Hooker, also took to Twitter Tuesday night to question Whelan. "I don't have a problem with her not hyphenating her name so why are you trying to make an issue about it in the campaign? If you have an issue with my last name, let me know."

Whelan said as far as he knows, Islas' legal name is hyphenated.

"There’s no problem with her name, but that’s her name and people should know her name," he said.

Property records show Islas and her husband have owned a home in Tulare since 2006. They moved to District 7 in January 2017, where they rent a home, records show.

Islas said that doesn't mean she's a "carpetbagger." She was born in the district, and so were two of her sons, she said. She's worked in the district for more than a decade through Cultiva La Salud, previously known as Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program.

Esparza lives in an apartment. He said after completing graduate school in 2015, he moved back to central Fresno. Although he considered campaigning for council in District 4, he never qualified for the ballot.

Although Esparza hasn't personally seen the ads, he said they don't bother him.

"We’re focused on the issues affecting the people in District 7," he said. "These folks who see the ads, I don't think anybody’s buying it."

Said Whelan: "I think it’s important if you hope to represent your neighbors that you live next to them for some amount of time and understand the issues that affect them."

Brianna Calix: 559-441-6166, @BriannaCalix