Despite Growing Criticism, Bray-Ali Says He Will Not Drop Out of Race

By EGP Staff Report

An embattled first-time political candidate for city council went on the defensive Wednesday, posting a video on his campaign’s Facebook page claiming recent media reports about his character – or lack thereof – are nothing more than a political “distraction” and a “misrepresentation and mischaracterization not only of my words but who I am as a person.”

Joe Bray-Ali is challenging Councilman Gil Cedillo in the 1st Council District, and has come under intense fire from LGBT groups, civil rights organizations and numerous elected city officials for a series of racist and derogatory statements he made online, some as recently as one year ago.

Cedillo was forced into the May 16 runoff when he fell just short of the required 50 percent of the vote on March 7, finishing with 49.34 percent to Bray-Ali’s 37.97 percent.

Several groups have criticized Bray-Ali as seeming ‘un-repentant” for comments he made online in which he used the N-word, called gender reassignment surgery a “shameless excess,” used the word “retard” and made other comments which offended leaders in the LGBT and civil rights communities.

On Wednesday, a small group of veterans added their voices to the growing number of critics calling for Bray-Ali to withdraw from the race.

Although the vets do not represent any official veterans organization, a spokesman for the group, Mark Quiroz, said the vets are angered over a 2006 blog post from Bray-Ali in which he wrote, “Let people burn the flag all they want, let ‘em put it in their avant-garde art videos smeared in poo, let them destroy it.”

Quiroz said Bray-Ali was asked by a veteran at a candidate forum on April 19 to apologize for the comments and he declined.

“He was given the opportunity to apologize in an open forum and he refused to,” said Quiroz, a former member of the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council, adding that the veterans do not plan to endorse Cedillo.

In a Facebook video posted Wednesday, Bray-Ali said his words were taken out of context, and that what he wrote in the 2006 blog post was a response opposing legislative action to ban flag burning, and he was saying the flag is not the people.

A group of military veterans gathered at the Highland Park Veterans Memorial Wednesday call for Joe Bray-Ali to withdraw over comments he made about flag burning in 2006 on blog post. (Courtesy of Al C. Strange)

A group of military veterans gathered at the Highland Park Veterans Memorial Wednesday call for Joe Bray-Ali to withdraw over comments he made about flag burning in 2006 on blog post. (Courtesy of Al C. Strange)

Discovery of the postings, characterized as racist, transphobic and misogynist, prompted the Los Angeles Times and City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell and the Eastside Democratic Club last week to rescind their endorsements. Bray-Ali was also denounced by City Controller Ron Galperin and seven City Council members and numerous leaders from the LGBT and civil rights communities have called for him to pull out of the race.

The endorsements had been a significant boost for Bray-Ali, a former bicycle shop owner who has never held political office.

After losing the endorsements, Bray-Ali decided to come forward with other damaging information about himself, and in a Facebook post admitted to habitually cheating on his wife for years, owing $48,000 in back taxes and committing vandalism.

According to Bray-Ali, he wanted to put the information out before it could be used by the Cedillo campaign to “smear” him.

Bray-Ali opened the post by saying, “Here is the dirt on me.” The post then said:

—“Flying Pigeon-LA LLC owes the State Board of Equalization for a failure to pay an audit and several quarters of sales taxes. The amount is ~$48,000 the last time I bothered to open the envelope.’

—“I slept with several other women from 2011 to 2014. Not my wife. For a time I even had a Tinder profile.’

—“I painted bike symbols (sharrows) in the middle of the night with friends, and on camera with German documentary filmmaker.’

—“I have said many profane, rude, statements to people I’ve gotten into arguments with online.’

In a new video posted Wednesday, Bray-Ali said he has trained as an anthropologist and is interested in listening to people who I “completely disagree with,” people who will stick to things no matter what. Last week he said that he visited the racist websites to “educate” himself.

Montecito Heights resident Diana Martinez doesn’t buy his explanation. She said one of his campaign supporters over the weekend asked her what the candidate could do to change her mind: “Tell him to tell the truth because no one believes he went to the low-life site to ‘educate,’” she says she responded. “It was Joe’s b.s. lying video that completely lost my vote,” said Martinez, who has lived in the district for 30 years.

But Bray-Ali is not backing down. He said his online slurs “are a distraction from what this election is about and not a reflection of who I am as a person. They are a verification that I am a human being with flaws, like everyone.”

He said the focus should be on replacing a “do-nothing incumbent” and keeping him from having another five-and-a-half more years in office. It’s about crime going up, the homeless and people being priced out of their homes,” and not about his online comments, the candidate said.

In the video posted Wednesday, Bray-Ali said he had struggled to come up with a response to the accusations being made against him, criticizing the main street media for picking up a “misleading story” and “sloppy reporting.”

Bray-Ali has vowed to fight through election day even though his comments have been denounced by City Controller Ron Galperin, Equality California, the Courage Campaign and the Los Angeles chapter of the National Action Network, along with seven sitting City Council members who called on him to drop out of the race.

Bray-Ali’s wife, Susan Wong, defended him on Tuesday in a post on his campaign’s Facebook page.

“I know my husband Josef, and he is a person of integrity. He is caring and inclusive of all people. In this climate, it is so important for people to check the sources and see if true journalism is occurring, or if a misleading headline, and mischaracterizations are occurring — we need to make sure that we critically analyze everything,” Wong said.

“I’ve lived here for nearly 30 years” and I’m disappointed Cedillo’s supporters aren’t in front of Bray-Ali’s office protesting every day, said Martinez.

“I’m sure he won’t mind losing my vote … I’m fat, I honk my horn sometimes to alert my son when he doesn’t pick up the phone, and I have friends who have had sex change operations,” Martinez said.

“If he’s honorable, drop out of the race.”

 

Information from City News Service was used in this report.

 

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May 4, 2017  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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