Hogan campaign trolls Maryland teachers union in dispute over apple logo

Gov. Larry Hogan’s campaign trolled the state’s teachers’ union Wednesday after its representatives warned him that he was violating its trademark logo.

For years, candidates supported by the nearly 80,000-member Maryland State Education Association have proudly displayed its red apple logo on their campaign materials to burnish their education bona fides with voters.

So, when representatives of the union — which has endorsed Hogan’s opponent, Democrat Ben Jealous — noticed Hogan was using a red apple logo and touting support from teachers in his campaign materials, they objected.

“We alerted Governor Hogan’s campaign to materials we believe violate our trademark and hope to quickly resolve this matter,” said Adam Mendelson, a spokesman for the teachers union.

In response, Hogan turned to social media Tuesday evening.

“A representative of the MSEA called our campaign and threatened to sue both our campaign and me personally for, get this, using an apple on our bumper sticker,” Hogan wrote on Facebook. “They said only their union has the right to use an apple. Like this post if you think they should focus on more important issues like educating our kids and get your free Teachers for Hogan bumper sticker.”

On Wednesday, the Hogan campaign posted large images on Facebook and Twitter of a red apple that said, “Teachers for Hogan.” And, Hogan campaign staffers delivered a basket of apples to the union’s headquarters in Annapolis — filming the delivery and posting it online.

The union said in a statement that it will “vigorously defend this trademark against infringement no matter the candidate or political party.”

Hogan’s campaign attorney, Chris Ashby, wrote to the union to argue it cannot have “a monopoly on public expression and political endorsement by teachers.”

“If ‘Teachers for’ infringes your mark, then there is no expression of support by a group of teachers for a political candidate that would not be infringing,” Ashby wrote.

Hogan campaign spokesman Scott Sloofman also released a pun-filled statement mocking the union’s litigation threat.

“It’s ridiculous that the MSEA is going bananas over an apple. They are being unraisinable,” he wrote in an email. “It’s unfortunate that they are attempting to squash the First Amendment rights of our thousands of teacher supporters who think our Teachers for Hogan bumper stickers are peachy.”

The Jealous campaign called Hogan’s actions part of a pattern in which the governor has acted “in an incredibly divisive manner and targeting educator leaders,” including referring to union leaders as “thugs” during a budget dispute in 2016.

"By mocking teachers, Larry Hogan is taking a page out of the Republican playbook,” Jealous said in a statement. “Educators deserve far more respect in our society than they get and they certainly don't deserve to be mocked when they unify their voice to advocate for policies that help their students.”

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