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Cupertino Mayor Steven Scharf (left) caused a stir by trotting out rainbow signs in a race against an openly gay candidate, J.R. Fruen (right).
The colorful world of politics got a little more prismatic this week in Cupertino as the city’s mayor, Steven Scharf, faced criticism over his new rainbow yard signs.
Critics of the placards say Scharf misappropriated LGBTQ imagery in a jab at J.R. Fruen, whose recently announced council bid makes him the city’s only openly gay candidate. Fruen said some residents have donated to his campaign just to protest Sharf’s seeming attempt to co-opt the rainbow.
Fly emailed Scharf to find out what inspired his chosen sign palate and he updated his website with an explanation. In a letter posted online Tuesday, Scharf said he commissioned the pride flag-themed signs to rebut a “political attack” in which some accused him of opposing a new rainbow crosswalk in the city.
The signs, he said, are a show of “support for the LGBTQ+ community.”
Drew Lloyd, president of LGBTQ political action group BAYMEC, told Fly he likes seeing allies display the rainbow flag—but an ostensibly straight man using it as a foil against an out-and-proud challenger “raises serious questions.”
“I am anxious to hear about the connection he has to LGBTQ people that is strong enough to attach his name to the rainbow flag in a race against a candidate who openly identifies as LGBTQ,” Lloyd offered diplomatically.
Scharf also raised eyebrows with his slogan choice, which critics took as another dig at Fruen. “A Better Cupertino For All,” which combines the names of dueling factions in the city: slow-growth group Better Cupertino, of which he’s a member, and pro-growth Cupertino For All, which Fruen co-founded.
Maybe it’s a coincidence. Or maybe Fruen’s living rent-free in Scharf’s head.
Either way, Fruen said: “It means he’s paying attention to the fact that I’m in the race, and that he thinks that I’m a threat to his candidacy.”