CORRECTION: The article originally and mistakenly stated that photos were scrubbed from Facebook. Rather, the account is set to private. We apologize for the error. However, candidates like Martino are not open with voters about their MAGA politics.
You’ve probably seen the enormous red “Academics over Activists” signs that have sprung up overnight across Central Bucks. These are signs paid for by Bucks Families for Leadership, Paul and Aarati Martino’s PAC supporting the right-wing politicians for CBSD school board. But, what exactly does this slogan “Academics over Activists” mean?
An activist is defined as “a person who uses or supports strong actions in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue.” Activists are generally known as people who take alternative routes to enact change such as holding signs at a protest or showing up at school board meetings to make public comments.
Activists have been responsible for enacting major change in the USA and across the world. Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Helen Keller, Mahatma Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela are all well known historical activists. But, activism is not by nature, partisan, meaning activists exist across the political spectrum. Candace Owens, Ben Shapiro, Matt Walsh, and Milo Yiannopoulos are all examples of modern-day right-wing activists.
Being an “activist” is not an objectively good or bad thing, nor does activism have anything to do with academics. Activists may or may not value education. Support of an activist depends on how you feel about the issue they are advocating for. If you support women having control over their own health care, you may celebrate pro-choice activists. Whereas, if you do not believe in women’s rights, you may be cheering on the “pro-life” activists who harass young women at Planned Parenthood sites.
These big red signs that attempt to disparage activists should actually be viewed as signs against the Moms For Liberty activists who come to school board meetings and call for book bans. They should be viewed as against the right-wing activists who show up at township meetings and make cruel comments to supervisors while claiming to be “protecting kids.” They should be viewed as against the Christian Nationalist activists who show up to harass children and parents at the Rainbow Room.
Ironically, the very act of displaying those enormous red signs decrying activism is “showing opposition to one side of a controversial issue”…. Otherwise known as…Activism
So why would MAGA (and school choice) activists like Paul Martino waste money trying to condemn activism? Seems kind of silly, right?
To understand why, we have to look more closely at who funded these signs.
Turns out these signs are brought to you by the very same people who brought us “Parents over Politics” in 2021. The people who, once on the board, launched a full-scale politically-motivated attack against LGTBQ students. The same people who brought national culture wars into our schools and spent a million dollars of our money on their political activism.
In other words, these are people who have a history of covertly bringing national politics into our local schools. By trying to distance themselves from and disparage activists, they are hoping to confuse the public once again. They’re essentially saying “hey, look over there! THESE are the troublemakers!”
So, what about the new Martino-backed candidates on the Central Bucks Forward slate? Are they also activists for far-right political ideology?
Take, for example, Stephen Mass. While Mass has attempted to cultivate an image of himself as a moderate member of the community, his political connections tell a different story. Here he is with right-wing politicians Newt Gingrich, Tom Emmer, and Burgess Owens. Tom Emmer stands against women’s right to choose, Burgess Owens believes Donald Trump won the 2020 election, and Newt Gingrich, well, is Newt Gingrich. Further, Stephen Mass has strong ties to Moms for Liberty and his wife calls herself a “proud healthcare activist.”
These connections to extremism don’t quite fit with a “calm, rational” candidate who will bring the focus back to our students and local community. In fact, his political connections make him seem alarmingly like another right-wing activist who will continue with the chaos of the current board majority.
Let’s go back further to Paul and Aarati Martino themselves … the folks who are responsible for the PAC and the majority of the financial support of the Central Bucks Forward slate. Why would they want to make activism sound like a bad thing?
Paul Martino is a multi-millionaire investor well-known for injecting national political culture wars into local elections. Last election he dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into school board elections across the state of Pennsylvania. This election, he has already vowed to spend “as much money as it takes to win.”
Mr. Martino often boasts about rubbing elbows with Republican governors and other elected leaders. He regularly guest stars on shows hosted by right-wing extremists, like Dom Giordano and Charlie Kirk (who recently defended Tucker Carlson’s racist tirade). Mr. Martino has also declared himself the mentor of James O’Keefe, leader of Project Veritas, a dangerous extremist site known for its deceptive tactics to disenfranchise voters.
His wife, Aarati, who is one of the current candidates on the Central Bucks Forward slate, has proudly taken photo ops with divisive political figures such as former President Trump and Newt Gingrich. She’s even shot guns with Kathy Barnette, former Republican candidate for Senate who marched with the Proud Boys on January 6. Paul and Aarati are not only political activists, they also have the financial means and political connections to push their ideololgy in a way that is unattainable to most local folks.
(insert aartis pics here)
So, next time you see those big red signs saying “Activists over Academics,” remember who paid for them.
Remember how Paul Martino and the Central Bucks Forward candidates are precisely the political activists they are trying to warn you about.
Remember that Dana Hunter (Martino candidate and current board president) has been using her activism on the school board for over a year, creating policies championed by right-wing politicians, like Doug Mastriano and members of Moms for Liberty.
Remember that despite all of the chaos, despite all of the bad press, despite all of the students, teachers, and parents begging the board majority to stop harming the community, Paul Martino still thinks his school board members are doing a great job.
On a recent facebook thread he declared, “ I have dealt with extremists in other political endevaors and people like Deb, Lisa, and Jim are not- and not even CLOSE … Yes, I helped many of them get elected. I take full responsibility for that.”
Remember all this, and vote accordingly.
See you at the polls on May 16.
This guest column was written by a Central Bucks School District parent who wishes to remain anonymous.