A glossy campaign flier that landed in mailboxes across the District this month features a cover photo of a smiling Muriel Bowser, the Ward 4 Democrat running to unseat Mayor Vincent C. Gray.
Inside the mailer, however, is a photo featuring another woman, and her appearance in the ad has left her anything but smiling.
Myrna Peralta, president and chief executive of CentroNía, a nonprofit organization that provides child care, education and other youth services, said Bowser’s campaign never asked whether her picture could be used to promote the candidate’s mayoral bid. And if Bowser had asked Peralta, who is close to Gray (D) but hasn’t said publicly who she’s supporting in the April 1 primary, the answer would have been “No.”
Peralta succeeded Gray Deputy Mayor Beatriz “BB” Otero at the helm of the organization. She said she has fielded complaints from board members worried that the CentroNía leader’s apparent endorsement of a political candidate could put its nonprofit status at risk.
Perhaps more important, Peralta said, the campaign did not seek authorization to publish images of three children attending a CentroNía day care, who were also displayed in the campaign mailing’s photo.
“This has put me in a real difficult position, but it has been even worse that they used a photo with children in it,” Peralta said. “We are required by law to have waivers of any children. For a photo of a child to be used without the parents’ consent on a campaign flier — it is just absolutely unthinkable.”
Peralta said she called Bowser’s campaign last week to file a complaint but has not heard back.
Bo Shuff, Bowser’s campaign manager, called the use of the photo “a mistake” and said it had been taken from Bowser’s Facebook page.
“It was a public event, with a public official, and if there was a complaint, I have so many e-mails . . . .I did not get that,” Shuff said.
The image was included in one of at least three mailings sent by Bowser’s campaign in recent weeks.
Shuff said that it will not appear again. “We won’t use it anymore. And if [Peralta] wants an apology, I am happy to apologize as well.”
But Peralta said the issue is not finished. She said her office is working to find the parents of the three children shown in the photo to notify them of the breach.
Peralta also said the event at which the photo was taken was not entirely public. Bowser had been invited to tour a new CentroNía day-care facility last year in the lawmaker’s Northwest district, where Latinos make up an increasing number of voters.
“If it wasn’t done intentionally,” Peralta said. “It was pretty sloppy campaigning.”