A white school board candidate has stood his ground after receiving criticism over his decision to use stock photos of a black family to promote his campaign.
Steven Joseph Megerle, who is running for a position on the Cincinnati Public Schools board, took to Twitter Monday to defend the controversial image, which features a black family and the words "Protecting Taxpayers" printed beneath them. Several critics have voiced concerns that the photo wrongfully implies that Megerle, himself, is black.
"Fighting for all taxpayers including my 'STOCK PHOTO FAMILY,'" Megerle tweeted, tagging several local journalists and government Twitter accounts.
On Sunday, school board member Mike Moroski posted the ad on his Twitter page, along with an actual photo of Megerle.
"This is wrong. Megerle is a white guy pretending to be black to get votes," Moroski's tweet read.
Megerle responded directly to those comments on Sunday, addressing the controversy — which he called "nonsense" — in an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer.
"It's a partisan attack," Megerle, who identifies as a conservative, said. "They have no plan to solve our failing schools."
Moroski wasn't the only local politician to take issue with the image, though. Cincinnati City Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard also weighed in, taking to Facebook to call Megerle a "joke of a candidate."
"Don’t be deceived," her post continued. "I think inclusive ads are great but that isn’t what is happening here. He’s trying to deceive people."
Still, Megerle told the Cincinnati Enquirer he wanted to work with Dennard — and the rest of city council — to help black families in their community.
"Seventy percent of the students in our failing Cincinnati Public Schools are African American," Megerle told the paper. "I am running so the children can have a chance to succeed and rise out of poverty."
Some city officials seem less than eager to work with Megerle on his plans, though. In addition to Dennard, City Councilman Chris Seelbach also shared a critique of the ad on Facebook, calling the decision to use the photo "disgusting, but somehow expected."
"He’s a Trump-supporting, Tea Party loving conservative Republican. But even more... HE’S A WHITE MAN! Don’t be confused," Seelbach wrote.
Megerle is running in a special election against two other candidates, with the winner holding their seat until Dec. 2021.