Portola Valley Mayor Craig Hughes said fellow council candidate Dale Pfau "should not be elected" because of his problematic Twitter account and his conduct when serving on the Wildfire Preparedness Committee. Pfau, the chair of the town's Emergency Preparedness Committee, responded by saying he is shocked by Hughes' insinuations.
The two are facing off against three others in a race for three seats on the Portola Valley Town Council in November.
The subject of Pfau's tweets was brought up during The Almanac's Portola Valley Town Council election forum on Thursday, Sept. 29, when Hughes was answering a question about how 2020 Census data puts Portola Valley among the Bay Area's top 20 most segregated neighborhoods by white wealth and whether it is important to increase diversity in town.
Hughes told The Almanac he was referencing a retweet from Pfau of a post that he interpreted to be a nativist trope that foreign people living in the U.S. should go back to the countries they came from if they don't support their adopted country, which he perceived to be racist.
"Housing and diversity of housing opportunities is an important element (of creating diversity in town)," Hughes said. "I think it's important to have council members and community members who do not support notions such as: 'foreign students who come to the United States should move to another country,' 'Or that we are losing our country to people like this.' Elected officials in this town should not support ideas like that. And that will drive people away who might want to come here when they have opportunities (and) will be turned off by having a council member or council members who support notions like that."
Pfau said he felt ambushed during the forum and he's shocked by Hughes' insinuations. Pfau told The Almanac that he didn't support the retweet in its entirety. He said he endorsed the part of the tweet about not supporting people who are not supportive of American troops.
"I doubt there's anything in my Twitter that says I'm a racist because I'm not," he said. "I'm saddened he (Hughes) didn't reach out to me directly. I'm all about open honest discussion about the issues we face. … I don't really want to have any part in personal politics. I'm not searching through anyone's social media — this is not what Portola Valley is about."
The Almanac reviewed the video that's part of Pfau's retweet and found it promotes the nationalist notion that college students, not specifically foreign-born college students, should move to another country if they don't support America's military.
After being told of this by The Almanac, Hughes now says he owes Pfau an apology after having seen the fuller context of the tweet.
However, Hughes said that he does think that Pfau has extreme views. Even if the retweet was not nativist or racist, Hughes said he is wary of the jingoist view that people who don't support elements of American society should leave the country.
The Almanac was able to verify the retweet Hughes referenced using the Wayback Machine internet archive, since Pfau's Twitter profile is now private. Pfau said he changed his profile to private when he learned people were mining his account and found some of his retweets to be politically incorrect. He said he doesn't have time to rebut everything he's posted on social media.
Pfau said that the mayor reached out to him after learning the tweets were not focused on foreign-born students. Pfau now considers the matter closed, he said in an email.
"I am focused on the critical issues that face Portola Valley residents: safety first, improved governance, and pushing back on unsafe state mandates. Personal attacks are an attempt to distract from these important points."
Twitter profile photo of Watergate felon
Pfau's former profile photo on Twitter was of G. Gordon Liddy, a convicted felon for his role as one of the main operatives of the Watergate break-in during the Nixon administration. In his autobiography, "Will," Liddy stated that he was willing to kill during the Ellsberg break-in in Los Angeles and also said he once made plans to kill journalist Jack Anderson.
Pfau said he heard Liddy speak years ago and was inspired by Liddy's work ethic. Pfau said that Liddy was one of the "best speakers" he's ever seen. He said that growing up in a small town in Colorado he himself was told that he should attend junior college but instead worked hard to get into Stanford University.
He also retweeted a post that links to a climate change denying blog post. Pfau said he is a model wonk and likes listening to different theories. He didn't find out until later that it was an anti-climate change post.
"I wouldn't be so involved with wildfire if I were a climate denier," he said. "It (climate change) is affecting fire in California like we've never seen before. It is a fact."
Emails about fellow committee members
During another part of the debate, Hughes read Pfau's emails aloud, and said Pfau was trying to work with the chair of the Wildfire Preparedness Committee to "undermine other members of the committee" and prevent them from being able to discuss the committee's work during meetings. Hughes said Pfau was removed as vice chair of the committee in April for trying to undermine other members and because disparaging remarks about female committee members via email such as "Is this woman clueless or what?" and "Please forward me Sarah (Wernikoff)'s agenda. We will completely ignore it of course."
"The Twitter thread shows additional ways in which Dale's philosophy differs markedly from what most Portola Valleyans would adhere to, and so much so that I felt it's important that the public should know about it," Hughes said. "The voters of Portola Valley should be aware of the differences between how Dale comes across in public versus what he does when he thinks that nobody is looking but like-minded thinkers."
Pfau said he owes the people mentioned in the emails, which weren't sent directly to them, a public apology. He said he was never specifically mean to anyone on that committee.
To watch the full candidates' forum, visit youtube.com or click the video at the top of this story.