Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Election Day for the Santa Fe mayoral race is still months away, but what is still a two-candidate race is already starting to get ugly.
Mayor Alan Webber issued a statement Monday condemning what he says is an anti-Semitic cartoon of himself, as well as an advertisement that appeared in last week’s Santa Fe Reporter, an alternative weekly newspaper.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3999, which represents Santa Fe city employees, created and distributed a flyer that includes the cartoon among its members, union leadership said.
The cartoon depicts a man Webber says is meant to represent him, except with “a large, exaggerated nose.”
Large noses have historically been used in derogatory depictions of Jewish people, dating back to propaganda released by Nazis in the 1930s. Webber referenced that history when denouncing the cartoon.
“This has no place in Santa Fe, not just with regard to me, but for everyone in our diverse city,” he wrote. “We must reject this kind of divisive ugliness.”
The flyer claims that city administration plans to soon stop paying its 60% share of employee life insurance and urges them to email city officials, including the mayor.
However, union officials – who have been critical of Webber’s time in office – told the Journal that the person depicted in the cartoon is not supposed to be Webber. Rather, they say it’s a generic city employee and is not based on a real person.
Local 3999 Vice President Gil Martinez said he drew the cartoon and was not aware that enlarged facial features were derogatory toward Jewish people.
“This is really offensive to even think that way,” Martinez said of the anti-Semitism claims. “(Webber’s) campaign looked for something like that and they found it. They’re gonna keep on looking again just to make stories.”
Sascha Anderson, a spokesperson for the mayor’s reelection campaign, said they’re not buying claims the man depicted is not Webber.
“The cartoon has a clear resemblance to the mayor,” Anderson said. “Feigned ignorance is no excuse.”
Anti-Semitic incidents and hate crimes have been on the rise in recent years. United Nations Secretary-General Antonió Guterres said in January the pandemic had, in part, led to a surge in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories across the globe.
Rabbi Rob Lennick, CEO of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico, said he found the cartoon “very disturbing,” and that he agrees with Webber’s sentiments.
“To see that propaganda rear its head in our time is a reminder that we all have to work together to fight against all caricatures,” Lennick said.
Webber’s campaign also denounced a full-page ad paid for by Spanish fraternal organization Union Protectiva in the Reporter.
The ad makes a series of allegations against Webber during his time in office, some of which Webber says are untrue.
One claim was that Webber supports the destruction of the mural “Multicultural” on Guadalupe Street, which is on state property. The mayor has not publicly taken a position regarding the mural.
Despite this, Union Protectiva President Virgil Vigil said there’s nothing inaccurate in the advertisement and his organization is not endorsing a candidate for mayor.