The Brewer School Department has distanced itself from a political mailer endorsing Rep. Garrel Craig’s re-election that used the Brewer High School Witches logo.
“The Brewer School Department does not endorse any candidate or party and did not do so in this instance,” Superintendent Cheri Towle wrote in a notice posted to the school department’s website Tuesday. “We apologize that our logo was used without our permission and are seeking trademark status on our logo to prevent this in the future.”
The mailer, paid for and authorized by the House Republican Fund, featured the Brewer Witches logo on one side, and a message “From the desks of Ed Youngblood and Ed Donnelly” endorsing Craig, R-Brewer, in Tuesday’s election on the other. The House Republican Fund is the campaign arm of the Maine House Republican caucus.
Youngblood said the name “Ed Donnelly” carried the wrong first name, though he did not confirm the identity of his co-signer.
Craig said he was unaware of the mailer and its use of the Brewer Witches logo until he received it in the mail like other Brewer residents.
“There’s no copyright or trademark, so have I stolen their logo?” he said.
Towle said she received complaints from residents who were confused about whether the school department was endorsing Craig. She said she put out the notice to ensure that parents and residents knew the House Republican Fund had not asked the school department for permission to use the logo.
“If they had asked me, I would have said no because it’s not our school department’s right to share our views on any political party or candidate,” she said.
The Witches logo is protected under intellectual property laws, Towle said. “To think that anyone can use it just because it isn’t trademarked is just wrong,” he said.
Craig said he believed the reaction to the mailer was “more of a political thing.”
Youngblood said he didn’t know, either, about the use of the Brewer Witches logo until he received the mailer at the same time as everyone else.
“I had just seen the wording of my addition to it,” he said, explaining that he was aware of the content but not the House Republican Fund’s choice to use the Witches image.
“I’ve seen that logo used for an awful lot of things over the years,” he said. “I don’t think it was meant to imply the endorsement of the school department.”
Towle said local businesses sometimes use the logo for nonpolitical purposes but always with permission from the school department.
“It doesn’t matter who it was, the use of the school logo on a political ad is inappropriate,” she said. “We’re here to educate children, not choose political sides.”
Youngblood said he thought the superintendent’s notice was the right approach for the school department, but he believed that residents who complained about the use of the logo were overreacting.
“I’m confident that all the complaints are coming from residents from the other party,” he said.
Brewer resident David Fitzpatrick, who received the mailer earlier this week, said he found the use of the Brewer Witches logo inappropriate as a Brewer taxpayer.
“How many people are assuming that the school is supporting this candidate?” he said. “I think this should be investigated. I’d like to know who made the decision, who approved it and who thought this was a good idea.”
Neither Rep. Ken Fredette, the House Republican leader and principal officer of the House Republican Fund, nor House Republican Fund treasurer Ryan Lorrain answered questions about the mailer and the decision to use the Brewer Witches logo.
As Election Day approaches, the House Republican Fund and other political committees are required to file notices with the Maine Ethics Commission within 24 hours of making outside expenditures, including mailers and other advertisements, in legislative races. As of late Wednesday, the ethics commission hadn’t received a report on the mailer supporting Craig.
Craig is running for re-election against Democrat Archie Verow in House District 128, which covers part of Brewer. Verow held the seat for two terms before Craig defeated him in 2016.
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