First-time state Assembly candidate Russ Weiner expressed amazement Sunday over what seemed an orchestrated campaign to deface several dozen of his campaign posters, displayed along Highway 101 in Marin County from Sausalito to Novato.
Damage to the posters occurred between the hours of 2 and 9 a.m. on Saturday. Large photographs of Weiner's face were painted over in red with devil's horns and swastikas, with religious and sexual epithets added.
"This was literally every one of my signs. This is vicious," said Weiner, speaking from his campaign headquarters on Sunday night.
The red paint "looks like blood, that's what's so scary…it's obviously not a stable person who would do this."
Weiner, a 28-year-old Sausalito Republican who lost to Democratic incumbent Kerry Mazzoni, is the son of right-wing KSFO radio call-in host Michael Savage.
Weiner's Web site says he and his father are co-founders of the 4,000-member Paul Revere Society, an "educational and fraternal organization that was formed in 1996 to preserve the borders, language and culture" of America.
Weiner said that religion had not played a part in his campaign. "I don't talk about being Jewish — it's who I am, but I don't make it an issue."
Weiner said he was outraged at the scope and viciousness of the attack. "Someone just went nuts on Friday night. I felt bad for kids who might have seen this stuff."
The Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith was quick to condemn the action, offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.
Such a reward is fairly unusual in Northern California, said Barbara H. Bergen, ADL's regional director. "I've been in the Northern California regional office for 2-1/2 years and [the offer of a reward] hasn't happened since I was here; however, ADL offices around the country do this," she said.
Though damage to Jewish property occurs "with some frequency" in the Bay Area, Bergen said, the defacement of Weiner's posters was "directed, systematic and particularly nasty.
"We feel it's important to send a message that we take this conduct seriously, and that we're determined to prosecute people who act out their intolerance," she added.
While some members of the community expressed the belief that Weiner might have painted the signs himself in order to draw attention to his campaign, the candidate dismissed that notion.
"I think it's sad that people would think that," he said. Such thinking, he added, is a product of reverse discrimination.
"If I was a Democrat, or [a member of] another minority, would people even bring that up? Because I'm a successful white male who happens to be Jewish, they think it's a publicity stunt."
Weiner, who is more used to being vehemently disliked as a Republican in Marin than as a Jew, drew a connection between the two forms of hatred. "I've been campaigning here as a Republican, and I've had people say, `I hate Republicans' to me," he said.
"There are people out there who think it's acceptable to hate you without even knowing who you are or what you believe in, because you're a Republican. It's a stereotype that's really dangerous, characterizing everyone in one group as bad."
Such characterization has at times come from his opponent, he said. "What's frustrating is that she's tried to portray me as an extremist at times. People don't see that…intolerance can come from both sides."
Earlier this week, the police did not have any leads on the case. "It's at a very preliminary stage — all we have right now is a bunch of defaced posters," said Lt. Richard Laden of the Marin County Sheriff's Department. The candidate requested that the sheriff's office leave the posters intact on Saturday and Sunday, Laden said.
Weiner confirmed that he'd wanted the posters to be visible over the weekend. "I wanted people to see that this kind of s— would go on, even here in tolerant Marin," he said.
"The local press — the Marin Independent Journal and the Press Democrat — said that they don't want to offend their readers, so they're trying to pretend this didn't happen," he said.
"But if we've learned anything from history, it's that you don't let something like this go by. If you ignore it, it's the same as doing it."