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Did School Board Candidate Violate ‘Clean Campaign’ Pledge?



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In the waning days of the 2020 election, the two local school board candidates are sparring over accusations about a clean campaign pledge.

All three candidates vying for the State Center Community College District Area 2 trustee seat signed a voluntary document pledging to campaign fairly.

Administered by the Secretary of State and filed with the Fresno County Clerk’s office, incumbent Eric Payne and challengers Nasreen Johnson and Sevag Tateosian agreed to seven principles including an open and honest discussion of the issues, not to demean an opponent’s character, and condemning others who make such an attack.

Payne, running for his third term, is alleging in a Facebook post that Tateosian violated the pledge.

A Voluntary Pledge

Candidates may voluntarily sign a fair campaign practices pledge when they file to run, according to election code.

On his Facebook page, Tateosian posted an image comparing himself to Johnson. It shows a complimentary photo of Tateosian next to a unflattering picture of Johnson.

“November 3rd is around the corner. My interest? Higher completion rates, stronger vocational/technical training, upgraded first responder program and financial education back into the classroom! Surprisingly, not everyone agrees…” the post says.

Payne said this violated the second plank of the code:

“I SHALL NOT USE OR PERMIT the use of character defamation, whispering campaigns, libel, slander, or scurrilous attacks on any candidate or his or her personal or family life.”

Tateosian didn’t think much of Payne’s accusation.

“While I work on plans to strengthen our First Responders Academy and improve our colleges, I hope Eric enjoys his final weeks in office as I know he has quite a hefty amount of debts to repay to the FPPC,” Tateosian said in via text message.

Earlier in the election, public interest group Common Sense Information sent anti-Payne mailers to voters. Payne called that racist.

Payne, Tateosian Argue on Facebook

Payne replied, calling out Tateosian.

“It’s disgusting that while you signed the disclosure that you would run a clean campaign free of attacks, you have continued to tell lies and now you have resorted to this attack ad, as the only woman in this race, the verbal abuse and demeaning images are not warranted against Nasreen Johnson — How would you like it if someone treated your wife, mother, or sister this way …. You wouldn’t, I’m sure. If anything your the Bully in this race,” Payne wrote.

Tateosian responded with a message about a Payne controversy.

“Please pay your fines, Eric Payne,” Tateosian wrote.

The Fair Political Practices Commission, the state agency in charge of campaign finance, fined Payne $54,000 for several violations. He has yet to pay his fine.

“Keep my name and hers out your mouth,” Payne replied.

Johnson did not post and did not respond to GV Wire’s℠ request for a comment.

Read the Pledge Signed By the Candidates


David Taub has spent most of his career in journalism behind the scenes working as a TV assignment editor and radio producer. For more than a decade, he has worked in the Fresno market with such stops at KSEE-24, KMJ and Power Talk 96.7. Taub also worked the production and support side of some of TV sports biggest events including the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and NASCAR to name a few. Taub graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email