A candidate running in November’s election for the board governing City College of San Francisco posted controversial views condemning critical race theory, often referred to as CRT, in a since-deleted tweet.
The revelation on Twitter of a prior comment by board trustee candidate Marie Hurabiell is now prompting a Democratic club in the city to reopen discussions on their endorsement of her, the club’s president told KQED.
In the tweet, which was published in May 2021, Hurabiell wrote, “CRT was a tactic used by Hitler and the KKK.” These were not her words; rather, Hurabiell was amplifying the words of a speaker at a school board meeting in Loudoun County, Va.
Then, Hurabiell added, in her own words, “Gratitude to this strong and passionate parent for fighting this dangerous nonsense.”
Critical race theory is an academic school of thought teaching how racism is baked into the systems and policies of the United States. It entered the national spotlight last year as a bogeyman of conservatives looking to lambaste local school boards. Striking critical race theory from school campuses is among a number of efforts by conservatives to reform school boards across the country over the past year, including banning books promoting racial equity and LGBTQ+ themes.
Outrage against CRT is usually reserved for screeds on ultraconservative websites like Breitbart, or on President Donald Trump’s social network, Truth Social. It’s certainly not an everyday talking point in liberal San Francisco.
The Virginia school board meeting took place amid heated rhetoric against critical race theory from then-gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin. After he won the race, Youngkin issued an executive order to end “inherently divisive concepts,” which he billed as a way to end critical race theory from being taught in K-12 schools.
Fanning flames against critical race theory was central to Republicans in his race, but in Democratic San Francisco, Hurabiell may have found a sympathetic ear for those views from people wishing to recall several local school board members.
In the deleted tweet, Hurabiell tagged numerous accounts, including an account of the San Francisco Board of Education recall called @recallsfboe that belongs to a group now called the SF Guardians. That group worked to successfully recall school board commissioners Gabriela López, Alison Collins and Faauuga Moliga.
“I think it was a really stupid thing that I said," Hurabiell told KQED. "I think it was really stupid that I retweeted it and I’m extremely apologetic for that."
Hurabiell said she believes systemic racism is a “real problem” in the country.
“In my life I have not spent a lot of time digging into CRT, but I’m trying to understand it better now," she said. "I’m always open to being wrong.”
When asked if she usually calls things she doesn’t know about “dangerous nonsense,” she responded, “I don’t routinely talk about things that I’m not terribly familiar with."
Hurabiell is an eighth-generation San Franciscan and has been an attorney since the 1990s. She also serves on the Georgetown University Board of Regents. An ardent supporter of the recall campaigns of the three San Francisco Board of Education members and District Attorney Chesa Boudin, she also is a member of the nonprofit Stop Crime SF, the organization Board of Supervisors candidate Joel Engardio sits on the board of.
Adele Failes-Carpenter, political director for the City College of San Francisco faculty union, AFT Local 2121, said Hurabiell's views are out of step with the college's mission.
"We need public education to keep our commitment to ending racism at the center of our work," she said. "Anyone who is participating in open, reactionary attacks on critical examinations of the history of race and racism in this country is not in a position to help us do that work."
Hurabiell has been endorsed by at least two local Democratic clubs in her race so far this year: the Eastern Neighborhoods Democratic Club and the United Democratic Club. These endorsements can be especially key in political races that don’t have as much funding, like down-ballot college board races.
When reached by text, Eastern Neighborhoods Democratic Club President Bruce Agid said he was not aware of Hurabiell’s tweet about critical race theory, and that he would discuss her views with his club’s board. Bobak Esfandiari, president of the United Democratic Club, did not answer texts inquiring about the club's endorsement of Hurabiell.
Failes-Carpenter said the clubs should reconsider their endorsements.
"I would ask them to stand by students and by public educators that have committed to fighting racism within our public institutions and within our educational institutions, by not endorsing and supporting candidates who are openly hostile to anti-racist analyses and anti-racist teaching," she said.
The endorsement of Hurabiell by two Democratic clubs may be an odd choice for another reason: For two decades Hurabiell was a Republican. She was appointed to the Presidio Trust Board of Directors, where she served for three years, by former President Donald Trump in 2018.
Records from the San Francisco Department of Elections show she was a registered Republican in San Francisco from at least 2000, which is as far back as more easily accessible records could reveal. She changed her party preference to Democrat on Aug. 18, 2022 — six days after she filed paperwork to run for the City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees.
San Francisco Democratic Party Chair Honey Mahogany said the organization's bylaws do not specify how long someone needs to be registered as a Democrat before a Democratic club can endorse them. Furthermore, Democratic clubs are allowed to endorse someone of any party in nonpartisan races, like for City College's Board of Trustees.
Hurabiell would have had an uphill battle running for office advertising herself as a Republican in San Francisco, where the party is widely disfavored in local elections.
San Francisco has no elected Republicans in office. The last Republican elected in San Francisco was the late James Fang, who formerly sat on the BART Board of Directors. He was first elected in 1990 and served until his defeat in 2014.
Hurabiell said she changed her party registration after joining a group called “No Labels,” and finding moderate Democrats who agreed with her on issues, but disliked her being known as a Republican Party member.
“We just wanted to solve problems. We just wanted to work together and effect positive change in our community,” she said.
The San Francisco Chronicle praised Hurabiell during her 2020 run for the college board — which she lost — endorsing her for “fiscal savvy.” Indeed, in her interview with KQED, she professed a desire to set City College on a fiscally solvent path, and expressed concern that too many classes that are still being offered are under-enrolled.
When Hurabiell said she didn’t know much about CRT, we asked whether she believed in other progressive causes that may be valued at City College, like the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I'm not sure I fully understand that movement,” she said, repeating her same explanation for having no stance on CRT. While the death of George Floyd left her “disgusted and devastated,” she said, “I want to say yes to that, but again I’m not sure I understand enough about it.”
Responding to Hurabiell’s repeated claims of not understanding both CRT and the Black Lives Matter movement, Jane Kim, state director of the California Working Families Party — who championed and won free City College tuition during her time on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors — bristled.
“Listen, it is one thing for an individual in our society or to say that they don't know a lot about critical race theory or Black Lives Matter, but if you are a candidate that is running to represent over 800,000 residents of San Francisco, many of whom are people of color, then I think that it is your job to understand those things,” Kim said. “If you don't understand the Black community, the Latino community, API community, then you shouldn't be running for office.”
Correction: Joel Engardio is a board member of Stop Crime SF, but did not start the group as we originally stated.