Less than two months after beating out five other contenders for State Assembly District 21 to finish second in the June 7 primary, Redwood City Mayor Giselle Hale has called it quits.
Hale, who in the November runoff would have faced San Mateo Deputy Mayor Diane Papan, announced on Friday that she was ending her bid to represent District 21 to prioritize her mental health and family instead.
"I know that having a stable family is a luxury, and putting my girls front and center of a battle that is not theirs to wage is not something I’m willing to do," she said in a statement.
Citing "hate ads" and "negative mailers," the mother of two said she "saw how deeply this race impacted the mental health and happiness” of her family.
Just weeks ahead of the primary, the race for the district took what Hale and her supporters called a “nasty” turn. Mailers began appearing in the mailboxes of many San Mateo County residents and appeared to leverage Hale’s eight-year tenure as a Facebook employee as a warning to voters. The mailer blasted Hale for accepting big tech money, especially from current and former Meta and Facebook executives. Hale's supporters then accused her opponent of spreading disinformation indirectly through mailers and advertisements funded by special interest groups with ties to major oil and gas corporations.
But Papan, who has made climate action one of her campaign priorities, denied the allegations, calling them a “desperate smear tactic on Hale’s part.”
According to Hale, who is a registered Democrat, some of the ads argued that she was not a lifelong Democrat because she had not formally registered as a member of the party until 2018. Hale noted that she was a vocal protester during the early days of the Trump administration and that she worked on former President Barack Obama's campaigns for president.
The ads also drew links between her and former President Donald Trump, according to Hale, because she auditioned for Trump's former television show, "The Apprentice," in 2005.
She added that her 5-year-old daughter regularly saw online advertisements on YouTube videos attacking Hale and that her 8-year-old daughter's classmate brought an attack campaign mailer to school.
“My experience isn’t unique. You don’t have to look hard in politics to find people willing to do or say anything to get elected,” she said. “And you don’t have to look far to see the people hurt by those campaigns.”
Hale said she had been able to compartmentalize the attacks, but the resulting stress on her daughters and her husband from antagonistic advertisements drove her to end her campaign for the seat, which includes the eastern parts of San Mateo County.
"You don't have to look hard in politics to find people willing to do or say anything to get elected," Hale said in a July 22 Twitter post. "But that's not me. Ultimately my decision came down to protecting the three people who matter the most to me."
Papan, in a statement on Hale's decision, acknowledged her erstwhile general election opponent only in a blanket "thank you" message to "each and every one of the primary election candidates for putting their visions forward to the people of San Mateo County.
"There is significant, essential work to be done in these challenging times," Papan said. "Now is the time to unify and work together in the fight to pass California's Proposition 1 to protect abortion and access to contraceptives; protect all Californians against the dangers of wildfire and drought; and invest in new housing. I am ready for the fight ahead in service to the residents and families in AD 21."
Hale thanked her supporters and said she would continue to represent Redwood City on the council, naming affordable housing, childcare and public transit as several priorities.
She added that she intends to join the Vote Mama Leadership Council to "push for family friendly agendas in California and nationally" and will "redouble" her efforts to improve transparency in campaign finance.
Papan, who won nearly 70% of precincts in Redwood City, Redwood Shores and North Fair Oaks, easily won her seat at the top of the ballot. Meanwhile, Hale, who was in third place when the polls closed on election day, ultimately pulled ahead of Republican Mark Gilham, with a final lead of just 322 votes. Hale won just under 25% of Redwood City area precincts. Papan and Hale tied in two precincts.
Pulse editor Michelle Iracheta contributed to this story. Bay City News contributed to this report.