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Pasadena Reacts to Felicia  Williams’ Cynical Political Tactics

Voters across Council District 2 received an incendiary mailer targeting City Council candidate Rick Cole. The mailer was produced and paid for by the Felicia Williams campaign and distorted Rick’s longstanding dedication to racial equality in Pasadena.


Pasadena Vice Mayor and Councilmembers united in condemning Williams’ tactics and issued the strongly worded statements below.

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“Like so many others, I was shocked at the hit piece issued by Felicia Williams, in which she misrepresents events of over 30 years ago to falsely impugn the character of her challenger Rick Cole – a mailer in which she says nothing about herself, even though she is the incumbent.


Even though I endorsed Ms. Williams four years ago, I am strongly endorsing Rick Cole to unseat her; like so many other groups and electeds who have withdrawn their support for her I’ve been deeply disappointed over the last four years by Ms. Williams’ lack of integrity and values which are contrary to the ‘Pasadena Way.’”

Vice Mayor Steve Madison*

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“I am shocked and saddened that Felicia Williams is poisoning the well of Pasadena civic life with dishonest low road attacks in the hopes that she can avoid an honest exchange of ideas about Pasadena’s future.


As Pasadena’s Mayor thirty years ago, Rick Cole fought to open up the leadership of the Tournament of Roses (which was made up exclusively of white men). Her cynical and dubious attempt to twist that successful effort into something unseemly is cynical politics at its worst.


Having only been a child at the time of these events, I am grateful that all those years ago Rick Cole was bold enough to take a stand for what was right and fight to make room for women like me. We needed leaders of conscience then and clearly still do now.”

Councilmember Jess Rivas*

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“I decided to stay neutral in the city council races this year, but I am so deeply disappointed in this piece from one of my colleagues that I feel the need to speak up.

One of the reasons I ran for office was to offer an alternative to the corrosive, hateful tone of our national politics. This is the kind of thing I was concerned about. Instead of talking about her own accomplishments, or highlighting what she hopes to do for our city in the future, my colleague chose to attack her opponent about alleged events from 30 years ago.

This mailer is mean-spirited, insincere, and entirely irrelevant to the pressing concerns facing our city today. It tells the voters nothing about where either candidate stands on the real issues. This kind of petty, cynical tactic should have no place in our national politics, let alone a local election. It's definitely not the Pasadena Way.”

Councilmember Jason Lyon*

*Titles for identification purposes only

In response to the slanderous mailer, Lena Kennedy – the sister of the late City Councilmember John J. Kennedy – issued the following open letter to Felicia Williams.

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Lena Kennedy with the late Civil Rights leader Rep. Elijah Cummings and the late Pasadena Councilmember John J. Kennedy

An open letter to Felicia Williams from Lena Kennedy


Dear Felicia:


Voters have received a “hit piece” from your campaign full of lies and distortions about Rick Cole’s brave (and successful) efforts to integrate the leadership of the Tournament of Roses thirty years ago. In a hundred years, the Tournament had never had a woman or person of color in a leadership role – and for most of that time forbid them from even joining. Working with a broad cross-section of community leadership, Mayor Rick Cole and Vice Mayor Katie Nack negotiated a landmark agreement that changed that forever.


My brother John Kennedy served on the City Council with you before his untimely passing in 2022. At the time you said this about my brother John: "He was an inspiration to me and one of the reasons why I ran. Since he was born and raised here, it wasn’t about agreeing or disagreeing or being right. It was always about what was best for Pasadena. And you always knew that was where he was coming from so even if you didn’t agree with him, you had a respect for that.”


It is with this memory in mind that I express my disgust with your ugly and deceptive attacks on Rick Cole. You are smearing someone who has dedicated years of honorable service to our city as Mayor and Councilmember, and now as a Planning Commissioner.


My brother John always held Rick in high regard, considering him an inspiration and a friend. They collaborated on various initiatives, including crime prevention training and affordable housing policy. Rick’s commitment to equal opportunity and the vision of “One Pasadena” aligns with the values my brother cherished. Even when they disagreed on issues, they conducted themselves with mutual respect.


In light of this shared history, friendship and community service, I implore you to change the tone of your campaign. While disagreements are a natural part of the political process, I believe that a respectful discourse benefits both candidates and, more importantly, the community we all love. Unfair attacks not only harm the reputation of your opponent but also diminish the quality of the democratic process.


I respectfully request that you show the same level of respect that you once spoke of in reference to my brother John, and apologize to Rick Cole and our community. Let us strive to conduct a campaign that honors the principles of fairness and unity, mirroring the exemplary service demonstrated by both my brother John and Rick throughout their years of dedicated service.


Sister of the late Councilmember John J. Kennedy

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