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Martha Dominguez

Trib overview of SBOE races

As always, there’s a lot of action in these low profile races.

Among the contenders in the races to replace Republican Thomas Ratliff of Mount Pleasant and Democrat Martha Dominguez of El Paso is a 68-year-old East Texas retiree who has said that President Obama used to be a prostitute and a 41-year-old self-described “MeXicana Empowerment Specialist” who says the board’s Democrats have sat silent for far too long.

Both Republican Mary Lou Bruner, of Mineola, and Democrat Georgina Cecilia Perez, of El Paso, taught in public schools for years. That’s one of the few things they have in common, along with a clear passion for their respective causes. Observers and political scientists say both women have emerged as strong contenders in their separate races and could easily claim victory in the March 1 primary, an outcome that could mean the return of a more quarrelsome board.

DISTRICT 9

Bruner, who has won endorsements from influential movement conservatives like Cathie Adams and JoAnn Fleming, is one of three Republicans vying for the nomination to replace Ratliff in representing District 9, a 31-county swath that spans the northeast quadrant of the state.

But it’s Bruner’s voluminous Facebook posts, not her endorsements, that have generated the most buzz in the race. A majority of them echo the kind of anti-Muslim, anti-gay or anti-science opinions commonly spouted by members at education board meetings of yore, but observers — and detractors — say she takes it to a whole other level.

“Obama has a soft spot for homosexuals because of the years he spent as a male prostitute in his twenties,” Bruner said last October in a now-deleted post on the wall of her personal Facebook page, where she also has posted campaign materials and solicited votes.

Bruner, who worked for 36 years in East Texas schools as a teacher, counselor and educational diagnostician, said she stands by all her posts but deletes the ones she comes to learn are inaccurate and also publicly apologizes.

“I’m not ashamed of anything that I have ever said,” Bruner said, noting she plans to bring to same zeal to the state board, speaking her mind even if she’s outvoted. “If I’m on the State Board of Education, I’m going to speak up for the things that I believe because I have a First Amendment right.”

The Tribune could not, however, locate a public apology for that post on Obama, which Bruner has since deleted from her Facebook page. Asked specifically about the post and whether she still believes the president used to be a gay prostitute, Bruner said: “You are obviously a hostile and biased reporter pretending to be a friendly reporter to gain my confidence. The interview is over.”

[…]

DISTRICT 1

Much like Bruner, Perez, a 41-year-old mother of four, also vows to bring “a very strong voice” to Austin. The former 8th grade language arts teacher contends the board’s five Democrats are “far too silent most of the time” — often sidelined as the board’s moderate and social conservatives dominate the debate.

Perez, who retired from teaching a year ago and now is seeking a doctorate in education at the University of Texas at El Paso, targets the education panels’ far-right Republicans prominently on her website.

“The SBOE is an important entity that has been hijacked by extremists that are more concerned with advancing an ultra-conservative agenda and rewriting textbooks than they have been overseeing the education of Texas youth,” reads a quote on the homepage.

But Perez, who has won endorsements from fellow El Paso Democrats Sen. José Rodriguez and Rep. Mary González, also dismisses any concerns that she might not play well with others. She points to her work last year crafting a proclamation that the education board ended up approving in a 12-2 vote supporting the implementation of ethnic studies courses.

“It was my presentation and my research and my testimony that brought them on board with how this closes the achievement gap,” Perez said. “In the past, the SBOE has been known for, perhaps, uncivil discourse, but that has not been my experience up there.”

Bruner of course has drawn national attention for her repugnant statements; as is usually the case, the Texas Freedom Network is your best source of information for this brand of crazy. She’s very much the face of the Texas Republican Party these days. She has a sane, Ratliff-esque opponent in Keven Ellis, and I suppose the question is whether the people that elected Don McLeroy or the people that ousted him in favor of Thomas Ratliff will show up for that race. Lord knows, the state GOP deserves her, but the schoolchildren of Texas do not.

As for Georgina Perez, it’s lazy and irresponsible of the Trib to draw a parallel between her and Bruner, even of the rest of their writing makes it clear that outside of a willingness to mix it up the two are completely different. One of these two will be a laughingstock, and it ain’t Georgina Perez. One of her opponents is a recipient of money from the astroturf group Texans for Education Reform, so I’ll be rooting for Ms. Perez on March 1.

And there’s also our local race:

DISTRICT 6

[…]

Two of the Democrats seeking the District 6 nomination — Jasmine Jenkins and Dakota Carter — criticized [incumbent Donna] Bahorich, as well as each other, for lack of experience and predicted their own passionate campaigning will push them to victory.

Carter, 28, is a child and adolescent psychiatry resident at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston who said he is “the only person running in the primary or the general election who understands how kids develop, at what ages they should be learning different subjects.”

The Panhandle native expects to receive his doctorate in education next year from the University of Houston, with a focus on curriculum instruction and leadership.

Jenkins, 32, also has a doctorate in education but says her experience teaching bilingual 4th grade in the Houston area for two years may be more important to voters.

“Being well educated doesn’t make someone an educator,” said Jenkins, who now is the manager of community-based initiatives at Advantage Testing of Houston.

“I hope that people will really recognize that and put these decisions in the hands of experienced educators.”

I interviewed Dakota Carter, and apparently got door-knocked by Jasmine Jenkins, but wasn’t home for it. Either one would be fine by me (there’s a third candidate who’s been invisible so far), but Bahorich got 57.1% in 2012, which was enough to win by over 100,000 votes. I’ll be happy if we can know that down a point or two – for sure, if we do, we’ve probably done pretty well countywide, too.

Standing up for science

Sure hope it did some good.

A past Texas State Board of Education chairman and outspoken creationist urged his former colleagues on Tuesday to approve high school biology textbooks he said would “strike a final blow to the teaching of evolution.”

Appearing at a board hearing on new instructional materials, Don McLeroy, a Bryan dentist who lost his seat on the SBOE in the 2010 Republican primary, told board members that the science textbooks currently under consideration contained many “hidden gems just waiting to be mined by inquisitive students” that proved there was no evidence for evolution.

McLeroy’s testimony diverged from other witnesses skeptical of evolution, who criticized the proposed textbooks for inadequate coverage of alternatives to the scientific theory and asked the board not to approve them until publishers made changes.

[…]

The 15-member SBOE won’t vote on the 14 science textbooks currently under consideration until November. Chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, said the board would also discuss revising the state’s textbook approval process, which science education advocates have criticized for allegedly lacking transparency and including unqualified reviewers.

Cargill herself has drawn accusations of improper involvement in the review process from the Texas Freedom Network, a group that monitors religious influence in public schools, after reports that she encouraged creationists on the panels. Cargill said she only attended the meetings to thank volunteers for their work reviewing the texts.

State panels have been reviewing sample instructional materials since April. The panels, which are assembled by SBOE members, have included several prominent creationists and evolution skeptics, as well as others without a background in education or science. Their preliminary proposed changes obtained by the Texas Freedom Network pushed for the inclusion of more arguments critical of evolution.

[…]

Prior to Tuesday’s hearing, three SBOE members — Ruben Cortez, D-Brownsville; Marisa Perez, D-San Antonio; and Martha Dominguez, D-El Paso — expressed their disappointment with the process at a rally organized by the Texas Freedom Network. They said that publishers were being pressured into including non-science based arguments against evolution and called for only “content-relevant educators” to be included on review panels.

Cargill said during the hearing that she had asked publishers to voluntarily disclose for public review any changes they made to textbooks prior to their adoption. She also emphasized that any reports made by review teams were preliminary — and that in November, the board would take up suggestions about how to improve the process.

“I’m very appreciative of the reviewers themselves,” she said. “But we’ve got some work to do.”

Just as Rick Perry works to keep Texas sick, so does Don McLeroy work to keep Texas ignorant. TFN Insider liveblogged the hearing, and also provided some extra background. What happens from here I don’t know, but as always it would be a good idea to stay engaged, and to keep an eye on the November hearing. Finally, kudos to new SBOE members Cortez, Perez, and Dominguez for their involvement. Perez and Dominguez gave us some moments of uncertainty last year, but so far they’ve exceeded my expectations on the board. Eileen Smith and the Stand Up for Science Tumblr have more.

Precinct analysis: Comparing 2012 and 2008, Senate and SBOE edition

To follow up on my previous examination of how the 2012 election returns looked in State House districts compared to the 2008 returns, I now have the data to look at other types of districts as well. You can find it as well on the Texas Legislative Council’s webpage – here are the reports for the State Senate and the SBOE. Those are the Excel report directories, but if you want something else – CSV or PDF – just click the Parent Directory link and find the report you want. Let’s first look at the Senate:

Dist McCain Pct Obama08 Pct Romney Pct Obama12 Pct RIdx DIdx ============================================================================== 01 214,365 69.50% 91,835 29.77% 220,140 72.14% 81,936 26.85% 1.04 0.90 02 159,810 60.79% 100,445 38.21% 161,348 63.22% 90,500 35.46% 1.04 0.93 03 213,045 71.13% 83,554 27.90% 225,526 75.47% 69,915 23.40% 1.06 0.84 04 195,512 67.01% 93,968 32.21% 216,087 70.03% 88,832 28.79% 1.05 0.89 05 170,905 59.67% 111,063 38.78% 181,385 63.06% 99,176 34.48% 1.06 0.89 06 48,222 35.81% 85,445 63.45% 43,931 32.46% 89,849 66.39% 0.91 1.05 07 184,620 66.24% 92,106 33.04% 196,383 66.76% 94,057 31.97% 1.01 0.97 08 180,746 59.48% 119,559 39.34% 186,753 61.67% 110,824 36.60% 1.04 0.93 09 145,020 57.76% 103,614 41.27% 142,499 59.28% 94,117 39.15% 1.03 0.95 10 158,677 52.13% 143,351 47.10% 155,936 53.31% 132,707 45.37% 1.02 0.96 11 173,843 62.64% 101,218 36.47% 184,101 65.06% 94,893 33.53% 1.04 0.92 12 186,268 63.00% 106,834 36.14% 197,333 66.23% 95,905 32.19% 1.05 0.89 13 35,820 16.44% 181,104 83.13% 32,917 15.44% 178,404 83.70% 0.94 1.01 14 114,865 34.49% 212,317 63.76% 116,001 36.14% 193,112 60.16% 1.05 0.94 15 85,552 39.37% 130,042 59.85% 89,030 39.68% 132,125 58.89% 1.01 0.98 16 161,779 54.99% 129,105 43.89% 159,759 56.96% 116,603 41.58% 1.04 0.95 17 174,371 57.76% 124,939 41.38% 178,241 59.36% 117,562 39.15% 1.03 0.95 18 181,472 64.51% 97,598 34.69% 198,175 67.34% 92,809 31.54% 1.04 0.91 19 92,299 43.57% 117,658 55.54% 94,159 44.11% 116,477 54.56% 1.01 0.98 20 81,772 43.32% 105,412 55.84% 78,474 41.65% 107,629 57.12% 0.96 1.02 21 81,054 40.85% 115,445 58.18% 79,167 39.83% 116,117 58.42% 0.98 1.00 22 184,967 65.29% 96,063 33.91% 186,950 67.97% 84,413 30.69% 1.04 0.91 23 46,236 19.46% 189,896 79.91% 42,408 18.09% 190,103 81.10% 0.93 1.01 24 190,823 66.60% 92,555 32.30% 195,593 70.71% 76,766 27.75% 1.06 0.86 25 218,093 61.41% 132,809 37.39% 233,884 64.15% 123,739 33.94% 1.04 0.91 26 84,889 38.24% 134,470 60.58% 74,472 36.30% 127,237 62.01% 0.95 1.02 27 47,197 32.24% 97,746 66.77% 45,768 30.58% 102,319 68.37% 0.95 1.02 28 189,851 71.07% 75,007 28.08% 182,982 73.59% 62,163 25.00% 1.04 0.89 29 63,736 33.50% 124,663 65.52% 59,137 33.33% 115,612 65.16% 0.99 0.99 30 216,383 71.14% 84,565 27.80% 223,487 75.74% 66,674 22.60% 1.06 0.81 31 196,846 77.75% 54,132 21.38% 186,762 79.51% 45,034 19.17% 1.02 0.90

As you can see, Sen. Wendy Davis not only won a district that was carried by Mitt Romney, she won a district that was more Republican in 2012 than it was in 2008. As far as I know, her district is no longer being contested in the redistricting lawsuit, so barring anything strange what we see is what we’ll get going forward. It’s not clear to me that she would have more to fear in 2014 than she did last year or would in 2016, but I presume someone is calculating her odds of re-election versus the odds of being elected statewide, and advising her accordingly. I’m glad that’s not my job. Three other Democratic Senators saw a drop in Democratic performance in their districts – Sens. Kirk Watson, John Whitmire, and Carlos Uresti. Watson’s SD14 was affected by the overall decline in Travis County turnout, which I suspect is a blip and not a trend; Whitmire saw modest increases in both D and R turnout; and Uresti had a small bump in R turnout and a tiny decline in D turnout. I don’t think any of it matters, but Uresti has the smallest margin of error after Davis. Pre-redistricting, SD09 was almost as purple a district as SD10 was in 2008, but that ain’t the case now. Democrats really don’t have any obvious targets to expand their delegation, though SDs 16, 17, and maybe 09 will trend their way somewhat over the decade. But don’t expect much turnover in the Senate that isn’t caused by primaries or voluntary departures.

Here’s the SBOE:

Dist McCain Pct Obama08 Pct Romney Pct Obama12 Pct RIdx DIdx ============================================================================== 01 168,833 42.84% 221,865 56.30% 161,807 42.58% 213,132 56.08% 0.99 1.00 02 191,754 47.11% 211,625 52.00% 187,147 46.69% 209,020 52.15% 0.99 1.00 03 157,233 38.29% 249,268 60.70% 149,659 37.20% 247,020 61.40% 0.97 1.01 04 89,884 22.61% 305,638 76.89% 84,036 21.07% 311,236 78.04% 0.93 1.01 05 358,691 52.16% 319,808 46.50% 375,942 54.67% 294,887 42.89% 1.05 0.92 06 320,914 58.39% 224,088 40.77% 332,415 59.70% 215,839 38.76% 1.02 0.95 07 358,380 61.22% 221,939 37.91% 390,808 63.64% 215,952 35.16% 1.04 0.93 08 370,712 67.66% 172,373 31.46% 398,664 70.32% 160,372 28.29% 1.04 0.90 09 436,392 69.69% 184,583 29.48% 449,301 73.29% 156,833 25.58% 1.05 0.87 10 313,379 53.54% 263,033 44.94% 331,022 56.97% 235,591 40.55% 1.06 0.90 11 391,597 61.92% 234,922 37.14% 396,329 64.27% 210,974 34.21% 1.04 0.92 12 365,314 57.49% 262,939 41.38% 373,920 59.71% 242,306 38.69% 1.04 0.94 13 123,380 27.66% 319,557 71.63% 110,615 25.75% 314,630 73.26% 0.93 1.02 14 401,810 66.98% 192,696 32.12% 413,181 70.62% 163,020 27.86% 1.05 0.87 15 430,765 74.27% 144,184 24.86% 413,942 76.91% 116,797 21.70% 1.04 0.87

No surprises here. Democratic districts were slightly more Democratic, Republican districts were more Republican. Sure is a good thing Martha Dominguez didn’t withdraw, because District 1 was way too easy a pickup to throw away. Keep an eye on freshman Democrat Ruben Cortez in District 2, who will be on the ballot in 2014, as that could go Republican in a bad year. The Dems’ best shot at pickups are in districts 5 and 10. Both will next be on the ballot in 2016.

I have one more post in this series to come, a look at the Congressional districts. Hope you find this useful.

We apparently will have a candidate in SBOE1 after all

The Trib reviews the bidding on the Martha Dominguez situation in SBOE 1.

Martha Dominguez

According to the Texas Election Code, primary candidates have until 63 days before the primary election to apply to have their name withdrawn (this year it was March 12), and they must withdraw with “the authority with whom the withdrawing candidate’s application for a place on the ballot is required to be filed.” In this case, that was the Texas Democratic Party, not the secretary of state’s office.

Rich Parsons, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, said that because Dominguez did neither of those things, her withdrawal was invalid and she stayed on the ballot as a legitimate candidate.

Had she successfully withdrawn from the primary, her name would not have been on the ballot, and one of the two other Democrats would have won the nomination.

Dominguez said Friday that her attempted withdrawal was based on “personal issues” that are now resolved, and that she fully intends to run against Republican Carlos Charlie Garza in November.

“The Texas voters have elected me, and I intend to win,” she said.

Had she decided not to stay on after being nominated for the general election, it’s unlikely that another Democrat could have taken her place.

Nice to see that she’s running; there had been some recent speculation that she had in fact withdrew. The fact that she hadn’t withdrew is mostly because she didn’t do it correctly, and I can’t say I’m comforted by that. The El Paso Times has more on that.

Dominguez said she tried to pull out of the race because of personal reasons, but once she saw she had won, she began to prepare to run in November. She said she has taken care of those personal issues.

“That whole week, I started emailing (secretary of state) to ask what happens and they said I was OK to run,” Dominguez said.

The certificate of withdrawal did not say why she wanted to get out of the race.

Democratic primary candidate [Sergio] Mora said he is disturbed by the fact that the Secretary of State’s office didn’t tell Dominguez to contact the state party or didn’t notify the party of her intent to withdrawal.

Mora said according to his interpretation of the election code, Dominguez missed the deadline to have her name removed from the ballot, but not withdrawal.

He feels the secretary of state should have let the party know so they could honor her withdrawal and appoint a different candidate.

“I have talked to various party leaders and we are concerned that the Republican Party will use this certificate of withdrawal to eliminate the Democratic candidate,” Mora said. “I think her request to withdrawal from the primary and general election should be honored and the Democratic Party should appoint someone to run in the general election.”

Mora said he will take legal action if necessary.

That ought to be interesting. No question in my mind that if Dominguez were to withdraw now, there would not be a replacement for her on the Democratic ticket. The Trib story references the Tom DeLay case of 2006, and I agree that’s on point. DeLay’s failed argument was that he was no longer eligible for the office he sought; Dominguez would have to have a valid claim of health reasons for withdrawal to be replaced. Mora’s argument is that she did withdraw before the primary, and that means she should not have been on that ballot. Under those circumstances, I can see the case for allowing a replacement, but I don’t know if a judge would buy it. We’ll see if Mora follows through.

And since I’m sure you’re wondering about Dominguez’s partner in enigmatic primary winners, Marisa Perez, the Texas Observer actually managed to speak to her, though it wasn’t easy.

After leaving messages with every listed number I could find for Perez and her campaign treasurer, and unable to take a hint, this reporter drove from Austin to San Antonio in search of the elusive candidate. This is what I had to go on: Perez, 27, is a graduate of San Antonio’s Edison High School and the University of Texas at Austin. She’s a social worker with Texas Child Protective Services, which could offer a little insight into what she’d bring to the board.

There was another brief clue from a videotaped campaign forum in May (like so many elusive characters, you’ll find proof that she exists on YouTube), Perez described her intentions thusly: “I am new to politics. I am not new to humanities. I’m not new to social service,” she said. She said she’d like to provide mental health training to teachers and counselors—a fine idea, though not something that falls under the scope of the SBOE.

I pulled up in the parking lot of the hulking brown three-story complex on San Antonio’s southeast side where Perez works, and casually glanced around. Naturally, there are security precautions in place at the Department of Family and Protective Services. After finding all the back entrances locked, I found the guards at the front door pleasantly disinterested when I walked right past them. But I was joined on the elevator by a helpful but skeptical employee who promptly marched me back to the metal detector. (She hadn’t heard of Perez either.)

At the front desk, I requested an audience with the presumptive board of education member, and the receptionist managed to get her on the line right away. After a thrilling moment—I was watching someone talk to her—I was told Perez was just stepping into a meeting. “She can call you right back,” the receptionist told me. I held my breath.

She never called back. Dejected, I drove back to Austin.

[…]

Then late last week, Perez announced she’d be holding her first campaign fundraiser outside an auto parts store next to her old high school. I decided to make a second foray into San Antonio to find Perez. When I arrived around noon, the candidate was introducing herself to a pair of teachers, shaking hands enthusiastically and planning to keep in touch. Under a pair of tents behind her, friends and family members sat talking, and selling hot dogs and drinks for a $5 donation. (Later that afternoon, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte would also drop by to speak with the candidate.)

Perez apologized for not returning my calls, saying the campaign has kept her too busy to answer all the calls she’s been getting. Even on election night, she said, she was out of town working, ferrying kids across the state. “I was on the phone every 20 minutes keeping up with the stats,” she said.

Perez said her main focus now is making herself accessible, to be “a recognizable face in the community.” It would seem she has a long way to go. But Perez did say she made a campaign stop in the Rio Grande Valley before the primary, and guesses she must have left an impression with those teachers and parents. Otherwise, she’s not too interested in talking about specifics—either about her out-of-nowhere primary win, or about the work she’ll face on the SBOE. Judging by how hard she was to track down, though, I felt lucky to come away with this much.

Patrick Michels, you’re my hero. Via SA Charter Moms, who have more on Perez. I say again, we need to think about better ways to protect good incumbents from getting swamped by no-name candidates in low-profile races like this. As for Perez, her Facebook page still has nothing more than the announcement of her June 13 fundraiser. But at least now we know that she actually exists.

Martha and Marisa

Martha Dominguez, the accidental SBOE nominee from El Paso who had been telling people she wanted to drop out of the race before the primary, has decided to stay on the ballot for November, according to the Lion Star blog. He’s not exactly thrilled about it, and I can hardly blame him. I repeat my earlier advice to Dominguez: Run, win, and resign so that someone who actually wants the job can have it.

As for Marisa Perez, no news and no updates on her Facebook page. An updated version of that San Antonio Current article says that a week after their call to her for a comment, she still has not called them back. Awesome.

Meanwhile, in a district that has a worthy candidate, Traci Jensen sent out the following press release earlier this week:

Traci Jensen

Traci Jensen, Democratic nominee for the State Board of Education, District 6, today called upon the Houston Chronicle, Texas PTA, League of Women Voters – Houston, Greater Houston Partnership, and American Association of University Women – Texas, to facilitate a series of debates between Jensen and her Republican opponent Donna Bahorich. In a letter to the five organizations Jensen said “the State Board of Education which oversees the creation of curriculum for Texas public schools is arguably the most important political entity in Texas. However, Texans know very little about the SBOE or its members. Ms. Bahorich and I have major policy and philosophical differences that should be debated throughout SBOE District 6.”

“There are 15 State Board of Education Districts with each representing over 1.6 million people. If SBOE, District 6, were a Texas municipality, we would be the second largest city in the state. SBOE District 6 includes parts, most, or some of ten ISDs. Although we fully intend to conduct a voter intensive campaign, we believe a series of debates will go a long way toward educating the voters on this important position,” added Jensen.

“In 2010, when the State Board of Education dismantled the social studies curriculum, many of our state’s most respected business and civic leadership expressed concern and outrage at the SBOE’s decisions. I believe that it is now all of our responsibility to properly vet the candidates that are running for the SBOE,” continued Jensen.

Traci Jensen has been an educator in the Houston Area for 20 years. Her focus has been to improve public education for all students. She has worked in Aldine ISD as a classroom teacher. She also has experience in Alief, Aldine, Spring Branch, Houston, Katy, and Cy-Fair schools working with future educators. Jensen has a Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education, a Master’s in Social Studies Education, and an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction.

A copy of the letter sent to the League of Women Voters – Houston follows. Similar letters were sent to the other four organizations.

I’ve put the letter beneath the fold. Jensen is an underdog in a district that was drawn to elect a Republican, but given how big SBOE districts are and how little attention they get the least we voters deserve is the opportunity to hear the favored Republican speak to a general audience about the issues she would face. We’ll see what kind of response she gets.

(more…)

Why bother campaigning for the SBOE?

Here in Harris County, we were fortunate to have an active Democratic primary between three likable and well-qualified candidates for the nomination in SBOE district 6. All three actively campaigned, each garnered at least one endorsement from a Democratic organization, and in the end everyone is happy with the winner, Traci Jensen. Unfortunately, we seem to be the exception here, as results from Democratic primaries for SBOE around the state were a mixed bag, to say the least. The most shocking result I saw on Tuesday night was the defeat by a 2-1 margin of SBOE 3 incumbent Dr. Michael Soto at the hands of a candidate who didn’t file until the very last minute. The San Antonio Current has the first story I’ve seen about Marisa B. Perez, the woman who knocked off Soto.

The only photo on Marisa Perez's campaign Facebook page

Elected in 2010, Soto had gained support among teachers and education reformers alike because he’d grown into a vocal counterbalance to the board’s social conservative bent, insisting on solid science and scholarship when weighing education standards and textbooks.

“Michael was one of the best State Board members we have ever worked with, period,” said Dan Quinn with the Texas Freedom Network, an organization that closely watches the SBOE for whenever hot topics like sex ed, history (conservative revisionism), or Darwin surface. “He’s smart, effective, and he put education ahead of anything else.”

While Soto raised nearly $43,000 since last summer, according to campaign finance reports, Perez, by all accounts, barely campaigned and didn’t raise or spend a cent. She was off the radar of most local Dems the Current contacted this week.

“I have never seen her or heard of her,” said Todd Hedley, with the Bexar County Democrats’ communications committee. And Perez appears to have little online presence — no campaign website, and a Facebook page offering only that she’s a social worker with the Texas Dept. of Family and Protective Services who graduated from Edison High School in 2003 before attending UT Austin.

The few local Dems who’ve actually seen Perez point a May 14 candidate forum she attended alongside Soto (YouTube video here). Pat Galloway, a Bexar Democratic precinct chair, remembered Perez attempting file for the race at the last minute on March 9, the filing deadline. “She walked into our offices here in Bexar County, she tried to file here,” Galloway said. “We told her she had to file with the state. … She drove up to Austin at the last minute.”

The Current left multiple voicemails for Perez this week on the number listed in her filings with the state Democratic party. We’ll update this post with her comments if/when she calls us back.

So how and why did Perez blow Soto out of the water?

SBOE districts are massive. District 3 spans 14 counties, from San Antonio to Edinburg in the Rio Grande Valley, encompassing some 1.7 million constituents — more than double the size of a congressional district. That’s a lot of turf to cover, especially for a down-ballot race.

One longtime Austin-based Democratic strategist and consultant, who asked not to be named in this story, offered a possible explanation for Perez’s unexpected win.

With nearly 80 percent of Texas public school teachers being women, polling shows Latinas are some of the staunchest supporters of public ed. SBOE seats are the only races with education smack dab in the title. So for these board races anchored in Hispanic-heavy districts where candidates lack any real name recognition, women may favor the woman candidate by default, the strategist speculated.

The theory plays out across South Texas’ two other SBOE races. In District 1, stretching from Laredo to El Paso, Democrat Martha Dominguez, an administrator with the El Paso school district, beat out two other candidates with 54 percent of the vote, avoiding a runoff in the race without even campaigning. In District 2, which runs from Corpus Christi to the Valley, Celeste Zepeda Sanchez secured 45 percent of the vote, a full 10 points ahead of her Texas State Teachers Association-backed opponent Ruben Cortez Jr. in the three-way race, all despite her reportedly anemic campaign (the two head for a runoff July 31).

“It sticks out like a sore thumb for me,” said the Democratic strategist. “Here you’ve got three women who either didn’t campaign or who campaigned the least in these Hispanic districts, and in each case the woman won outright or came out heavily leading in a runoff.”

The district is a heavily Democratic one, which is a good thing because Perez will face a deranged homophobic nutball named David Williams in November. One hopes she reappears from wherever she’s hiding and lets us know why she wanted to run for the State Board of Education and what she hopes to do if elected.

Meanwhile, over in El Paso there’s a similar mystery involving Martha Dominguez, who easily won a three-way primary in the Republican-held but Democratic-leaning SBOE District 1. The Lion Star Blog was first to report about this, with a followup post on Friday noting that the word around town was that Dominguez had intended to drop out of the race but didn’t come to that decision till it was too late to do so. The El Paso Times wrote about it on Sunday.

Martha Dominguez

Several sources, including some familiar with her, told the El Paso Times that Dominguez informed her family, friends and fellow employees that she did not want to run anymore. That was well before the May 29 primary election, but well after the March deadline to have her name taken off the ballot.

Throughout the campaign, she did not put up any signs or distribute any other campaign literature.

Her “final” campaign finance report, which normally is filed after the election, was filed on May 4, weeks before the primary.

Arlinda Valencia, president of the Ysleta Teachers Association, said everyone around the district knew Dominguez had dropped out.

“Everyone I had talked to told me she had dropped out,” Valencia said. “It was common knowledge.”

Dominguez had talked to Valencia when she entered the race about getting the association’s support.

“She told me she had never been in a political race before and didn’t know what to do, but she wanted our support,” Valencia said. “I told her to call me and one week went by, then another and she never called.”

Valencia said she was told Dominguez dropped out and assumed that is why she never called.

Now people are confused about who the nominee is, and Valencia thinks Dominguez should answer questions.

“It’s like playing a prank or practical joke on the democratic process to enter the race if you have no intention of seeking it,” Valencia said.

The article suggests that a replacement could be named if Dominguez does drop out. To my non-lawyer’s eyes, however, it appears that is not the case.

Sec. 145.035. WITHDRAWN, DECEASED, OR INELIGIBLE CANDIDATE’S NAME OMITTED FROM BALLOT. A candidate’s name shall be omitted from the ballot if the candidate withdraws, dies, or is declared ineligible on or before the 74th day before election day.

Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 211, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1986.

Amended by:

Acts 2005, 79th Leg., Ch. 1109, Sec. 7, eff. September 1, 2005.

Sec. 145.036. FILLING VACANCY IN NOMINATION. (a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), if a candidate’s name is to be omitted from the ballot under Section 145.035, the political party’s state, district, county, or precinct executive committee, as appropriate for the particular office, may nominate a replacement candidate to fill the vacancy in the nomination.

(b) An executive committee may make a replacement nomination following a withdrawal only if:

(1) the candidate:

(A) withdraws because of a catastrophic illness that was diagnosed after the 62nd day before general primary election day and the illness would permanently and continuously incapacitate the candidate and prevent the candidate from performing the duties of the office sought; and

(B) files with the withdrawal request a certificate describing the illness and signed by at least two licensed physicians;

(2) no political party that held primary elections has a nominee for the office sought by the withdrawing candidate as of the time of the withdrawal; or

(3) the candidate has been elected or appointed to fill a vacancy in another elective office or has become the nominee for another office.

(c) Under the circumstances described by Subsection (b)(2), the appropriate executive committee of each political party making nominations for the general election for state and county officers may make a replacement nomination for the office sought by the withdrawing candidate.

(d) For the purpose of filling a vacancy, a majority of the committee’s membership constitutes a quorum. To be nominated, a person must receive a favorable vote of a majority of the members present.

(e) A vacancy in a nomination for a district, county, or precinct office that was made by primary election may not be filled before the beginning of the term of office of the county executive committee members elected in the year in which the vacancy occurs.

I’m not a lawyer, so maybe I’m wrong about this, but it looks to me like it’s Dominguez or nobody. If it’s nobody, that means the one clear Democratic pickup opportunity is off the boards. That’s an even bigger political tragedy than Lloyd Oliver.

Looking at these debacles is enough to make one pine for the days of smoke-filled rooms and party bosses deciding who would run for what. I fail to see how the cause of democracy has been advanced by these results. It may be the case, as it was with George Clayton in 2010, that what we get winds up being no worse or even better than what we could or would have had, but that’s hard to see here and is beside the point regardless. Voters can’t be expected to make informed decisions if they have no information. We hear a lot about the problem of too much money in politics. This is the flip side of that. Either side bolsters the argument for some form of public financing of campaigns. This is no way to run a small-d democratic system.

Oh, and I have a solution for both Perez and Dominguez if they have decided that having been nominated they don’t really want to serve: Run – you owe the Democrats who voted for you that much – win (hopefully), then resign and let someone who actually does want to hold these offices run in a special election to replace you. It’s far from ideal, but then so were the accidents of your primary victories.