EDITOR’S NOTE: The Coast News has edited this piece to clarify a sentence regarding the timeline of events and content of the North County Beat podcast. Mayor Catherine Blakespear responded on September 17, as shown at 14:40 minutes in the podcast episode, specifically denouncing the behavior of the individual who wrote the harassing email to candidate Julie Thunder.
Julie Thunder has not responded to several requests for comment. Some individuals’ names were left anonymous in this article for privacy concerns. However, their names are readily available on source documents contained within this article and on social media.
ENCINITAS — Just one month after signing a pledge to run a clean campaign free of ad hominem attacks and misinformation, an aspiring North County politician published false statements and misleading remarks online about her opponent and a local media outlet.
Encinitas mayoral candidate Julie Thunder took to social media on October 8, sharing a screenshot of a harassing email she received in which a resident called her a “human pig.” In her Facebook post, Thunder went on to falsely accuse The Coast News employees and incumbent Mayor Catherine Blakespear of not denouncing the content or responding to the email’s author.
“Not one of the 18 people copied on that message spoke out against his vile words. Not one. Including the mayor. This is where we are Encinitas — and these are the disgusting politics that have been ruling over our City,” Thunder wrote.
However, Thunder’s claims ignore previous conversations about the email between Thunder, Blakespear and reporters during a podcast segment recorded last month discussing The Coast News’ Clean Campaign Pledge initiative.
The Coast News published a North County Beat podcast episode on September 18 entitled, “2020 Election Toxicity vs. The Clean Campaign!,” during which Thunder and Blakespear discuss the rising toxicity and harassment they have experienced throughout the 2020 election.
During the interview, Thunder specifically mentioned a disparaging email she received from a local resident and outspoken Blakespear advocate (not affiliated with Blakespear’s official campaign). In the email, which was also sent to several employees at The Coast News, the individual called Thunder a “toxic, bigoted, racist xenophobic NIMBY mob leader, and a human-pig.”
“This individual called me a human-pig, which is not a threat but I have to say, it feels a little threatening,” Thunder said. “It doesn’t feel so well for anybody to call you that.”
Later in the episode, both candidates denounced all forms of harassment by their supporters in accordance with the campaign pledge, Blakespear specifically condemning the remarks within the aforementioned email.
“I don’t support anybody using derogatory terms that are insulting and offensive and disrespectful to the core person,” Blakespear said. “It’s important that you recognize where people are coming from and when there are disparaging terms like that used, it’s basically just meant to demean and belittle them, so I don’t support that.”
In an audio portion cut from the episode due to time constraints, Blakespear responded further, sharing an instance in which the individual has harassed her as well.
“There’s just no question about it, it is abusive,” Blakespear said, “I receive emails from [him] all the time, some of them being positive about the work that’s been done but most of them negative about the city.”
During a contentious election cycle, both Blakespear and Thunder have also reported stolen and defaced signs, in addition to experiencing online and in-person harassment.
According to Blakespear, one particularly vocal Thunder supporter and administrator of a local political Facebook group, physically stalked her husband at his place of work, threatening to “feed him a rat sandwich” and posting similarly ominous remarks online.
Due to this individual’s ongoing behavior, local law enforcement has conducted an official threat assessment, according to a spokesperson at the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
Dr. Casey Dominguez, professor of Political Science and International Relations at the University of San Diego, reviewed key aspects of the Encinitas mayoral race and the responsibilities of each candidate to control their supporters.
“Generally speaking, someone who’s running for office should respond to the public, but again there’s a lot of gray area there,” Dominguez said. “Candidates can’t be held accountable for every person on the internet.”
In previous months, Blakespear and Thunder have sent increasingly critical emails, highlighting the perceived deficiencies of their opponent, yet their email campaigns have largely stayed within the bounds of the Clean Campaign Pledge.
According to Dominguez, the public benefits when candidates run on a platform of fairness and transparency.
“An ethical candidate should not want to win because the public believes mistruths or is motivated by hate to support them over their opponent,” Dominguez said. “An ethical candidate wants to win on the basis of their ideas, their record, and their character.”
The Coast News Clean Campaign Forum will be held virtually on October 13, 7-9 p.m. and will feature all six candidates for mayor and Encinitas City Council. The forum will include one hour of discussion and one hour of public Q&A. Registration is free of cost and available here.