FAIRFAX, Va. (CBS Washington) Two candidates embroiled in tough competition for a soon-to-be open seat on the Fairfax County School Board haven’t agreed on much, but they have found common ground when it comes to campaign imagery.

Both incumbent Jane Strauss and challenger Louise Epstein, vying for the Dranesville District seat, chose clip art images purchased from online stock image purveyor iStockphoto.

And both Epstein’s poster (seen here, courtesy of the Washington Post) and Strauss’ brochure (seen here, also courtesy of the Post) feature the beaming faces of the exact same diverse trio of models posing in graduation caps and gowns.

Catherine Lorenze, Epstein’s campaign manager, said they purchased the art back in April of this year – and sent the receipts to prove it. She said the image selected was a “branding” photo for Epstein’s campaign stolen by Strauss to confuse voters.

“We have 20 4′ x 8′ large yard signs throughout the district, and (over) 1,500 smaller yard signs,” she said, adding that, to her, the volume of signs, combined with the timing of their distribution and public posting, make it impossible for Strauss to claim she didn’t know what she was doing.

“Large yard signs began going up on private lawns beginning in very early August … (and) we were out of the gate on signs as early as May at the McLean Day festival too,” Lorenze noted.

The image also appears on the home page of Epstein’s campaign website.

Strauss, however, said the whole thing is one big coincidence.

“These races … are low-funded situations, so we were looking for clip art to produce a brochure on the cheap – there are no kids in caps and gowns to go photograph (in July and August),” she said with a laugh, adding that her daughter suggested the idea of purchasing clip art for the campaign materials.

In regards to attempting to copy off of the Epstein campaign, Strauss said there’s no chance.

“I had no idea our opponent had used the same art – I didn’t even notice until the end of September,” she said. “Clearly, whoever sponsored that and set it up there made a good choice.”

Going forward, both candidates have plans for their campaign imagery as more materials are distributed and Election Day draws ever closer.

“When school starts to get close, and lots more kids are around, we’ll sub whatever going forward with our kids,” Strauss said.

Lorenze, however, said that she has no intention of changing the image, and will continue to use it on all materials until Election Day.

“It’s on almost 2,000 (of our) signs (around the district) – this is a clear-cut case of plagiarism,” she said. “People might think this is petty, and it probably would be if it were just two candidates seeking an open seat, but she the chairwoman of the school board in one of the nation’s largest school districts – she’s sending a message (to the children) that it’s okay to plagiarize.”

The election itself will take place on Nov. 8 of this year.

Comments (2)
  1. outoftowner says:

    I really think some people need to go back to school, as this isn’t plagiarism. If Epstein were the ‘author’ of the photo then certainly it would be plagiarism for anyone else to use it and claim it as their own; however this is a stock photo available for purchase by anyone. Epstein and Strauss have equal right to use it. This is the equivalent of two girls showing up to the prom in the same dress and one of them pulling the receipt from her purse to show she purchased the dress first and complaining that the other girl was ‘copying’ her. How very childish!
    Personally, I think it’s a fail for both candidates. They each should have used their own photos of actual, represented students.

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