A former journalist running for a vacant Victoria council seat took to Facebook Monday morning to respond to what he called a “disrespectful” online discourse around his candidacy.
Stephen Andrew, one of eleven candidates vying for Laurel Collins’ long-empty seat on council, said during a Facebook Live video that several people, including two current councillors, have been saying “completely untruthful” things about his policies and beliefs.
“There are people in this city saying that I hate the homeless, and it’s just not who my character is,” Andrew said.
“Ben Isitt said that I wanna kick everyone out of the park. The man’s never, ever spoken to me about this, and I just find it hurtful.”
Councillor Ben Isitt did not respond to a request for comment from Victoria Buzz.
Andrew went on to say that he has been portrayed by Isitt and others as a “rich person,” but that he has earned his own way through life after experiencing a period of homelessness himself.
The former journalist also said that the accusations have been affecting both him and his husband.
He went on to say that another councillor, Sarah Potts, recently accused him of being a misogynist.
“Also we’re dealing with a situation of Sarah Potts, a councillor, which has the full weight of the council behind her — the council seat I should say — is saying that I’m a misogynist,” Andrew said.
“If you ask around in the city, you will find out that I’ve completely done the opposite. I’ve protected people, and tried to make life better for women in the city.”
Potts slammed Andrew on Twitter on September 30 for quote-tweeting a post by an account called “Save Beacon Hill Park” that said “Decisions made by female Victoria city councillors are endangering the safety of vulnerable people.”
Provoking update and true. How do “any” #VictoriaBC council members avert their eyes from serious abuse that they tacitly allow to occur in our parks? It’s a question I suspect no one will answer coherently. #yyjpoli https://t.co/d1sse5rh8m
— Stephen Andrew (@Stephen_Andrew) September 28, 2020
Andrew wrote that the update was “provoking and true.” In response, Potts wrote “Stephen’s ‘Misogynists 4 Victoria’ campaign t-shirts will be available soon.”
The Twitter spat did not end there, as Andrew replied to Potts calling her tweet a “feeble distraction from the failure to represent #VictoriaBC including Telling [sic] people to hire their own security.”
Well now we know what is in Together Victoria’s Arsenal of ridiculousness. -certain Potts et al won’t debate issues.The original post was written by a woman who makes a valid point. If you want to debate Sarah – I’m there anytime. But this post is a feeble distraction from../2 https://t.co/hHoBTYzB1P
— Stephen Andrew (@Stephen_Andrew) September 30, 2020
In an emailed statement to Victoria Buzz, Potts said she had received hundreds of vile and threatening tweets in response to the exchange, including people saying they would proudly wear a misogynist t-shirt.
“This is, unfortunately, a reality for women holding elected office,” Potts stated.
“I should note that we have also seen these same right wing trolls attack elected officials of colour questioning whether they support terrorism and killings based on their religion,” she added, referring to a recent incident where fellow Together Victoria councillor Sharmarke Dubow was subjected to an Islamophobic tweet.
When you enter the system and try to transform it, you learn a lot about how systematic racism is embedded in our society, especially when you are BIPOC, religious minority & woman, etc. I won’t stop fighting for everyone to have access to dignity, well-being and quality of life. pic.twitter.com/6cf4RJSuCh
— Sharmarke Dubow (@deardubow) November 14, 2020
Potts also called the vitriol a distraction from real issues the city is facing.
“These anonymous trolls, and those who benefit from the escalating vitriol, have no place in Victoria’s political culture,” she said.
“They will not stop me from trying to build a better city for everyone.”
In his closing remarks on his Facebook video, Andrew also called for an end to disrespect and online vitriol.
“The people that are saying things that are being disrespectful for any of the politicians, I’m gonna ask you please do not do it,” Andrew said.
“I do not condone it…Do not criticize these individuals, do not say anything, ignore them. If we give them voice, then they become stronger. So I’m going to ask you to stop.”