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Paul Fullen, ethics violations, and the South High principal

Something unsavory and seemingly illegal is afoot in the 17th Worcester District, comprised of southwestern parts of Worcester and the town of Leicester, in the battle between Democrat David LeBoeuf and the Trump-like Republican Paul Fullen to become state representative.

On Oct. 9, voters in the district received a mailing from the Paul Fullen campaign, with a return address of the MSRC, or Massachusetts State Republican Committee, featuring a picture of South High Community School Principal Jeff Creamer, replete with a photograph of Fullen and Creamer shaking hands in front of the school, i.e. on school property.

Superimposed on the photo is a quote attributed to Creamer. “I’ve known Paul over 30 years,” the quote reads. “He is definitely the clear choice when it comes to education. He’s the father of 7 children in Worcester schools and I know he’s committed to making sure our schools are well-funded and that our kids are safe.”

The mailing is obviously illegal: Fullen is using the school and the principal’s position as a means to campaign, clearly a violation of state conflict of interest laws [pdf], which regulate what Principal Creamer and other public employees can and cannot do. It’s probable that the principal didn’t know this was a breach of ethics, but surely Fullen, and certainly the state Republican Party, must know election laws.

Aside from the clear illegality of this mailer, one has to wonder about what such an endorsement – reportedly quite out of character for the principal – means for students at South High. For example, as was previously reported, many Worcester students, including from South High, have complained about an atmosphere of racism in the schools. Fullen has been noted for his use of racially coded language at the one debate the candidates have participated in so far. According to one reporter, Fullen’s words were “some of the ugliest, most racist rhetoric I’ve ever heard a local political candidate use.”

At the late August debate, a video of which is available here, Fullen:

  • Opposed universal pre-kindergarten, saying that the less time kids were in school the better
  • Said schools were dangerous because they were gun-free zones, and that the U.S. should take a lesson from Israel and deploy the National Guard to schools
  • Argued that bus fares are too cheap, the state should let the WRTA die, and that poor people should take Uber or Lyft instead of the bus (many students report that they are unable to attend after-school activities because of a lack of transportation options)
  • Mocked the idea of fighting poverty, saying that the U.S. has “the richest poor people in the world”
  • Opposed sex education, and simply denied the scientific evidence that STD rates are rising across the country
  • Said that people on Mass Health go to CVS, complain about their co-payment, and then leave in luxury Escalades (which, as reporter Bill Shaner noted, was a coded racist statement, as Escalades are most prominent in hip hop videos)

What is a student to think when their principal endorses this? Students, nearly 80 percent of whom are not white? More than 61 percent of whom are economically disadvantaged? 76.8 percent of whom are high needs? (Data from Massachusetts Department of Public Education) Does their principal think that they are some of the richest poor people in the world, whose parents jump into an Escalade after complaining about co-pays? Does their principal think they need more guns in the school the school and that they don’t deserve sex education?

My guess is that the answer to this question is “no.”  The thing about Paul Fullen is that he is, as a campaigner, as adept as he is extreme. While his views are fringe, his campaign literature portrays him as a nice guy, doing good work in the community, leaving out the racism, mockery of the poor, and desire to add more guns into the public schools. Fullen’s website paints him as an upstanding member of the community. There’s no reason to believe that’s not true, but completely missing from Fullen’s campaign literature are his extremist politics. Instead, he’s painted as vaguely conservative; his Republican affiliation is not even listed.

Readers of this blog will know that I’m pretty far left, and even I thought Fullen seemed like a moderate – until I saw him debate. My best guess: the principal, Mr. Creamer, has known Fullen for some time, and not discussed politics with him. Perhaps he knows him as the guy on the postcard, not the political extremist and, being a principal and not a politician, didn’t think twice about saying something nice about, and taking a photograph with, someone he knows through some school activities. It goes without saying that this is the only interpretation in which the principal is fit to serve a racially and economically diverse student body.

But even if the principal is naïve, Fullen has by now gotten a course in what can and cannot be done legally. And certainly the state Republican Party knows. The principal is likely to face a severe backlash when students, parents, and teachers (the teachers, by the way, endorsed Fullen’s opponent) realize what this illegally publicized endorsement means. Fullen won’t. The GOP won’t. Some friend of 30 years Fullen is.

In any case, someone needs to issue a retraction and an apology, especially to the staff, faculty, and parents of South High.