The election’s still almost a year away, but the race for First District county supervisor is already getting ugly.

Bohn at his recent campaign kickoff event. | Photo by Andrew Goff.

Hours after an Outpost investigation into the checkered past of Humboldt County supervisor candidate Allen McCloskey, he and his supporters are calling for First District Supervisor Rex Bohn, McCloskey’s opponent in the election, to apologize and/or resign over a racist joke he allegedly told at a fundraiser last month.

Community organizer Renee Saucedo, who spoke at McCloskey’s March 9 campaign launch, sent an open letter to local media outlets this morning, cc’ing some elected county officials. With the headline, “Rex Bohn must resign,” the letter reads:

Recently, I was informed that Supervisor Rex Bohn made a statement at a non-profit fundraiser about Mexican food, asking if it was authentic enough to “make you want to go out and steal hub caps.”  Several reliable sources directly heard the comment.

Nationally, radio commentators, professional coaches, actors, and others in the public eye were forced to resign, or were terminated, for making racist, homophobic, or sexist comments. Their removals were positive moves. Hate words have no place in the public discourse.  They dehumanize and incite discriminatory behavior. 

But most of us know this. Why would we allow a powerful, local elected official to get away with something like this?

Mr. Bohn may say that he was “only joking.” Not only is this kind of “joking” hurtful to me and to members of my community, but it fuels the current villainization of Mexican and Latinx people. His statement means that we are all criminals. Mr. Bohn should know that jokes re-enforce cultural attitudes, practices, and policies that treat an entire community like criminals.

Such joking should no longer be tolerated in Humboldt County. Mr. Bohn is unqualified to represent me, and other Mexican and Latinx constituents in District 1. 

Renee Saucedo
Eureka resident
Centro del Pueblo

The alleged incident took place at the Ingomar Club during the annual fundraiser for the Ferndale Repertory Theatre. Coincidentally, the fundraiser took place on the same day that McCloskey launched his campaign, March 9.

McCloskey first brought the allegations to the Outpost‘s attention a week ago, sending an email that contained a narrative describing the alleged incident. McCloskey said in his email that the account had been written by “a member of the Ferndale Community and member of the Ferndale Rep Theater Community,” but he did not identify the author.

Instead he suggested that we contact Leira Satlof, the Ferndale Rep’s artistic director, who was allegedly the audience for the offensive joke, and David Cobb, a local Green Party activist and community organizer, who allegedly overheard it.

Reached by phone last week, Cobb said, “I can absolutely confirm it.” According to Cobb, Bohn was sitting alone at a table when Satlof approached and started talking to him, describing the tamale dinner she planned to make for the fundraiser and boasting about how authentically Mexican it would be.

Cobb’s account of Bohn’s response is pretty much the same as Saucedo’s: “Is it so authentic that we’ll want to go steal hubcaps after?”

“It was clearly a joke, or at least he was intending it to be a joke,” Cobb said. “I tell you, I didn’t find it fucking funny at all. And I’m not proud of myself for not saying something at the time.”

According to Cobb, the only other person in earshot was Satlof. The Outpost emailed her but has not yet heard back, which left us with just one witness willing to go on the record about a comment he overheard. 

Today, however, the allegation has gone public. Shortly after Saucedo’s email, the Allen McCloskey for County Supervisor Facebook page weighed in on Bohn’s “racially charged comments” and invited people to join the campaign in the following list of demands:

  • Supervisor Bohn immediately issue an apology both to the Latino community and to Humboldt County
  • The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors individually and collectively denounce his racist statements
  • The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors work together to take administrative action to ensure the community that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated and/or condoned.
  • We continue a community conversation to address bias and racial contempt

We reached Bohn by phone earlier.

“I don’t have much to say on it,” he said. “I don’t remember saying it but I’m not gonna deny it.”

Bohn said he was having a private conversation with Satlof, and he discussed the alleged comment with her afterward. “I’ll tell ya, she wasn’t offended about it,” he said. [Clarification: Bohn says he didn’t talk to Satlof directly but heard from others that she didn’t seem upset by his comment.]

Bohn also said that while he may have an off-color sense of humor, he’ll “bend over backwards for the Mexican community” in his district.

“My respect for Latino community is throughout,” he said. “I’m sure they’re probably going to have a protest about me on the [courthouse] steps, but as they’re having their protest I’ll be out in my district doing my job, for all the people.”

That’s not likely to placate critics. Cobb, for one, said this is a big deal that shouldn’t be brushed under the rug. “[It’s] just a horrific, racist comment that an elected public official made,” he said. “I’m tired of our community excusing this kind of shit.”

The Outpost left another message for Satlof at the Ferndale Rep this morning. We’ll update if we hear back.

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UPDATE, 4:08 p.m.: Satlof responded via email:

As to your article about Rex Bohn, the FRT board has addressed the issue directly with Rex. We are not interested in becoming part of a political squabble.