Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Rebecca Bell-Metereau

Runoff races, part 2: Legislative

There’s one Democratic primary runoff for SBOE, one for Senate, and seven for the House. Here’s a brief look at them.

SBOE12

Suzanne Smith
Laura Malone-Miller

Smith led with 48.12% in March to Malone-Miller’s 26.31%. Smith has the DMN endorsement, while Malone-Miller doesn’t have a website. This is a Republican open seat – Geraldine “Tincy” Miller won with 61% in 2014 but is not running for re-election. This district went for Trump by a small margin in 2016, 50.1%to 44.4%, so it’s a dark horse contender to be flipped.

SD17

Rita Lucido
Fran Watson

Lucido, the 2014 candidate in SD17, nearly won this outright in March, finishing with 48.96% to Watson’s 35.09%. My interview with Lucido is here and with Watson is here. They’re both good candidates and good people.

HD37

Rep. Rene Oliveira
Alex Dominguez

Rep. Oliveira picked a lousy time to get busted on a DUI charge. That’s the sort of thing that tends to held usher Democratic incumbents out of office. Dominguez is a Cameron County Commissioner, so he’s a real threat to Oliveira, who led 48.48% to 36.40% in March.

HD45

Rebecca Bell-Metereau
Erin Zwiener

HD46

Jose “Chito” Vela
Sheryl Cole

HD47

Vikki Goodwin
Elaina Fowler

HD45 used to be a mostly rural district that elected a Democrat from 2002 through 2008 when rural Democrats were common enough, then went Republican in 2010 and has stayed that way as the district has become more suburban as San Marcos and the northern parts of Hays County have grown like gangbusters. Bell-Metereau, who led Zwiener 45.49% to 30.63% in March, is a three-time SBOE candidate, while Zwiener is a children’s author and Jeopardy! winner half her age. This is the kind of district Dems need to win to really make gains in the House, and there’s more focus and optimism on that score than we’ve seen this decade.

HD46 is the seat now held by Rep. Dawnna Dukes, who lost in the primary. The winner of this runoff will be the next Rep; there is a Republican, not that it matters, and an independent candidate who was going to be in a special election to succeed Dukes that never happened dropped out after the March result, citing the fact that both Vela and Cole are fine by him and more importantly to him not Dukes. Thanks to Dukes’ high profile and the fact that a win by Vela could mean there are no African-American legislators from Travis County (see below for HD47), this is probably the hottest House runoff on the ballot. The Trib, the Statesman, and the AusChron all have recent coverage. The score in March was 39.52% for Vela and 38.23% for Cole.

HD47 is the one Travis County district held by a Republican; Rep. Paul Workman rode the 2010 wave and got a friendlier map in 2011, but the district is not deep red and if there’s a year he could be in trouble, this is it. I really haven’t followed this one and only learned about these candidates while writing this post, but there’s coverage in the Statesman and AusChron if you want to catch up. The AusChron endorsed Fowler and Vela; Fowler is African-American so if she makes it all the way then Travis County would still have African-American representation at the Capitol.

HD64

Mat Pruneda
Andrew Morris

Another race I haven’t followed. HD64 is in Denton County, where incumbent Rep. Lynn Stucky is a ParentPAC endorsee. The district is in Denton County and it is red but not super duper red, though it is redder than neighboring HD65. The latter will flip before this one does, but it will be worth keeping an eye on it to measure progress.

HD109

Deshaundra Lockhart Jones
Carl Sherman

This is the seat being vacated by the retiring Rep. Helen Giddings. The runoff winner will be sworn in next January. Both candidates exceeded 40% in March, with Jones leading by four points. Sherman is the former Mayor of DeSoto, and he has the DMN endorsement. Jones is also from DeSoto and has served a couple of terms on its City Council. This race, along with the one in HD46, are rare instances this year where a female incumbent could be succeeded by a male candidate. (I overlooked the HD109 race when I wrote about the gender of primary challengers in January.) Sheryl Cole is an Annie’s List candidate but Deshaundra Lockhart Jones is not; I don’t know if that means something or not. Just wanted to mention it.

HD133

Sandra Moore
Marty Schexnayder

Moore missed hitting the 50% mark by four – count ’em four – votes in March, though I should note that Schexnayder topped forty percent as well. They’re both good candidates and good people, running in a tough district, and I interviewed them both in March – Moore here, Schexnayder here. Moore has the Houston GLBT Political Caucus endorsement, Schexnayder has the Chron. Like I said, they’re both good, so pick who you like and you can’t go wrong.

Races I’ll be watching today, non-Legislative edition

vote-button

This is my companion to yesterday’s piece.

1. SBOE district 5

I’ve discussed the SBOE races before. This particular race, between incumbent Ken Mercer and repeat challenger Rebecca Bell-Metereau, is the one that has the closest spread based on past performance, and thus is the most likely to flip. If it does flip, it would not only have a significant effect on the SBOE, which would go from 10-5 Republican to 9-6, with one of the more noxious members getting ousted, it would also cause a bit of a tremor in that this was not really on anyone’s radar going into 2016. Redistricting is supposed to be destiny, based on long-established voting patterns. If those patterns don’t hold any more, that’s a big effing deal.

2. Appeals courts

I’ve also talked about this. The five courts of interest are the First, Fourth, Fifth, 13th, and 14th Courts of Appeals, and there are multiple benches available to win. I honestly have no idea if having more Democrats on these benches will have a similar effect as having more Democrats on the various federal appellate benches, especially given that the Supreme Court and CCA will most likely remain more or less as they are – I would love to hear from the lawyers out there about this – but I do know that having more Dems on these benches means having more experienced and credible candidates available to run for the Supreme Court and CCA, and also having more such candidates available for elevation to federal benches. Building up the political bench is a big deal.

3. Edwards County Sheriff’s race

Jon Harris is an experienced Democratic lawman running for Sheriff against a wacko extremist in a very Republican county, though one with a small number of voters. This one is about sanity more than anything else.

4. Waller County Sheriff’s race

I’ll be honest, I didn’t have this one on my radar until I read this Trib story about the race, in which the recent death of Sandra Bland is a factor. Waller County went 53-46 for McCain over Obama in 2008, though the Sheriff’s race that featured a problematic Republican was a lot closer. It was 58-41 for Romney, which is close to what it was statewide. Democratic challenger Cedric Watson will have to outperfom the countywide base to defeat incumbent Glenn Smith, it’s mostly a matter of by how much he’ll have to outperform.

5. Harris County Department of Education, Precinct 2

There aren’t any at large HCDE Trustee positions up for election this year, so I haven’t paid much attention to them. This race is interesting for two reasons. One, the Democratic candidate is Sherrie Matula, who is exceptionally qualified and who ran a couple of honorable races for HD129 in 2008 and 2010. And two, this is Jack Morman’s Commissioner’s Court precinct. A win by Matula might serve as a catalyst for a strong candidate (*cough* *cough* Adrian Garcia *cough* *cough*) to run against Morman in 2018.

6. HISD District VII special election

You know this one. It’s Democrat Anne Sung versus two credible Republicans and one non-entity who hasn’t bothered to do anything other than have a few signs put up around town. One key to this race is that it’s the only one that will go to a runoff if no one reaches 50% plus one. Needless to say, the conditions for a December runoff would be very different than the conditions are today.

7. HISD recapture and Heights dry referenda

I don’t think any explanation is needed for these.

What non-legislative races are on your watch list for today?

The Trump effect on the SBOE

The Trib covers some familiar ground.

Rebecca Bell-Metereau

Rebecca Bell-Metereau

At least one SBOE race is “very much in play,” said Rice University political scientist Mark P. Jones. He’s referring to District 5, where Democrat Rebecca Bell-Metereau is attempting to unseat incumbent Republican Ken Mercer for the third time. The district reaches from Austin to San Antonio, extending northwest to cover several Hill County counties such as Llano and Kerr.

While Mercer — a fixture of the board’s far-right faction — is still the favorite to win, Jones noted the district is now “pink, not red” after the latest round of redistricting. With Trump also headlining the ticket, “the race stands to be the most tightly contested SBOE general election contest in more than a dozen years,” Jones wrote in an email.

Several recent polls show Trump is statistically tied with Democrat Hillary Clinton in GOP-friendly Texas.

Bell-Metereau, 66, a Texas State University English professor and former Fulbright scholar, notes that Mercer’s margin of victory has gotten smaller each time she’s run against him. In 2012, with Green and Libertarian party candidates on the ticket, Mercer, 61, an IT project manager and former state representative from San Antonio, won re-election with 51 percent of the vote. This year, there are only three candidates on the ticket, including Libertarian Ricardo Perkins, providing even more hope to Bell-Metereau.

“People are starting to look at the Republican brand with a little more skepticism,” she said. “I can’t help but see it as helping me.”

[…]

Dakota Carter

Dakota Carter

Jones said District 10, where Democrat Judy Jennings is challenging incumbent Republican Tom Maynard of Georgetown — also for the third time — is in play, too, although to a lesser extent. The district is wedged between Austin and Houston.

“Maynard remains a very heavy favorite to win in a district where Republicans enjoy a 10-point cushion even in the worst of times (pre-Trump worst of times, at least),” he said. “At this point, the best Democrat Judy Jennings can likely hope for is to keep Maynard’s margin of victory in the single digits.”

Maynard, 52, is one of the more moderate Republican education board members. The former school board member now heads the Texas FFA Association, a youth group focused on agriculture. Jennings, 62, formerly worked in the accountability division at the Texas Education Agency and now oversees assessment at Resources for Learning, an education consultancy.

Ten of the 15 board members are Republicans. With Trump at the top of the ticket, the margin of victory for incumbent Republicans in other races — SBOE and otherwise — may also be slimmer, Jones said.

Dan Quinn, a spokesman for the Texas Freedom Network, a left-leaning organization that closely monitors the education board, agreed.

“SBOE districts are so gerrymandered that general elections often aren’t competitive, but I think it’s true that the Trump disaster has at least the potential to shake things up in a lot of races up and down the ballot,” he wrote in an email, adding that “it probably helps challengers that some state board members sound so much like Trump.”

Dr. Dakota Carter, the Democrat trying to unseat Republican board chairwoman Donna Bahorich, said “I think a lot of people are going to be very surprised Nov. 8.” Libertarian Whitney Bilyeu and Laura Palmer, a Green Party candidate, also are in the race.

“Unfortunately, what happens is these school board positions don’t get a lot of attention and usually go the way that several of the more well-known races go,” Carter said. “And so I think Donna has a real shot of this being her only term.”

I’ve discussed these three very races before. I’d love to see Mercer lose; he won in 2012 by less than ten points in a year when Mitt Romney was carrying Texas by 16, so you have to think that race will at least be closer this time. As with everything else, the question is how much of this is due to Republicans not voting for Trump but otherwise pushing the R button, how much is due to Rs not turning out, and how much is due to higher Democratic participation. If there’s enough of the latter two, Mercer and maybe one or both of the other two could be in trouble. We’ll know soon enough.

Chron overview of SBOE races

There are a few races of interest, though the usual bet is that nothing unusual will happen.

Dakota Carter

Dakota Carter

Dakota Carter, a Democrat and underdog in District 6, said he got “fired up” to run for the board because he is tired of members manipulating the state’s curriculum to put it “more in line with politics rather than quality education for our kids.” To upend the direction of the board, he wants to unseat Chairwoman Donna Bahorich, a conservative Republican who he contends lacks understanding of what it is like to teach or send children to public schools.

“I think who needs to be on the board are actual educators or parents with kids in public schools,” said Carter, who once was a substitute teacher and is pursuing a doctorate in education. “It’s strange to me why we would put so much power in somebody who honestly doesn’t have any experience of what happens in a public classroom, what teachers go through, what families go through in the public system.”

The Houston Federation of Teachers union typically would jump at the chance to try to unseat someone like Bahorich, who was a former staffer to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, but has decided to sit this contest out, said Zeph Capo, president of Local 2415. Bahorich reaches across the aisle and regularly asks for the union’s opinion, he said.

“It’s very difficult to take a position against somebody who actually is working with you at the table and has done so long before anybody even considered running against them,” Capo said. “She’s willing to listen, she’s actually come to the table and she actually hasn’t been afraid to be seen with us.”

Last year, she appointed a Democrat to a key committee to study student testing and accountability, a move that signaled an easing grip on board partisanship.

“In this polarized society, that’s one of our problems, that we stay in our corners and we don’t talk to each other enough to work on things together,” said Bahorich, whose goals include focusing on college and career-ready courses and supporting successful charter schools. “There are some things we’re just going to have opposite. It’s better to have dialogue and conversation and try to work on things that you can agree on and move forward on.”

Not only does she face the race with the cachet of board chair, but the district largely is Republican, leaving an uphill battle for Carter, who would be both the youngest and first openly gay member to serve on the board if elected.

In Central Texas between Austin and San Antonio, conservative Republican Ken Mercer of San Antonio faces a challenge for the District 5 seat from Democrat Rebecca Bell-Metereau, an English professor at Texas State University.

The district is largely Republican and has sent Mercer to serve on the board in every election for the last decade. He is one of its most conservative members, is a defender of creationism, doubtful of climate change and a steadfast believer that the division between church and state is not a constitutional principle.

This will be Bell-Metereau’s third run at Mercer, who she describes as one of the board’s “most extreme members.” Name recognition has helped her shrink the voter gap between them, but she has remained far from clinching a win. Debate on a controversial Mexican-American history textbook critics described as offensive and racist could have a bearing on the race should Latino voters, largely in San Antonio, mobilize against him.

West of Houston, Florence Republican Tom Maynard will try to defend his District 10 seat against Judy Jennings, an Austin Democrat he beat by double digits in 2012. Jennings, who interprets student assessment data at Austin-based Resources for Learning LLC, argues the board micromanages the state curriculum and Republican members of the board are too afraid of right-wing groups to stand up to bad decisions. Maynard, considered a swing Republican on the board, is a former agriculture teacher and now executive director of the Texas FFA Association, also known as Future Farmers of America. He lists his top priority as demanding accountability and supporting local control.

The Chron endorsed Carter and Maynard but offered no opinion on District 5, which is centered in Bexar County. I’ve noted before that all three of these districts are susceptible, to varying degrees, of becoming competitive if the Presidential race is closer than expected. Here are the Presidential numbers from 2012 and the actual race results for your reference:


Dist    Romney     Obama    Romney%  Obama%
===========================================
05     375,942   294,887      54.7%   42.9%
06     332,415   215,839      59.7%   38.8%
10     331,022   235,591      57.0%   40.5%


Member, State Board of Education, District 5

Ken Mercer              REP  338,705  51.30%
Rebecca Bell-Metereau   DEM  281,445  42.63%
Mark Loewe              LIB   28,407   4.30%
Irene Meyer Scharf      GRN   11,717   1.77%


Member, State Board of Education, District 6

Donna Bahorich          REP  304,702  57.12%
Traci Jensen            DEM  208,198  39.03%
Gene Clark              LIB   15,189   2.85%
G C Molison             GRN    5,328   1.00%


Member, State Board of Education, District 10

Tom Maynard             REP  313,025  56.60%
Judy Jennings           DEM  239,985  43.40%

In a sufficiently bad year for Republicans, Mercer could be in danger. It would need to be a really bad year for Bahorich or Maynard to sweat. The former remains a possibility, the latter probably needs the polls to be tied to be in play. Mercer is the worst of the three, so that’s good news. Let’s wait and see what the October poll numbers look like, but do keep these races in mind if those numbers continue to be encouraging.

Endorsement watch: Beware the really bad candidates

Gloria Padilla in the Express News has some good advice.

Voting is not as easy as it used to be when communities were smaller and everyone knew the candidates. Smart voters need to do their homework and research their candidates. The uninformed choices made at the ballot box could have adverse consequences for generations to come.

I especially urge voters to research the State Board of Education candidates before casting a ballot.

There are two seats up in the Bexar County area.

In District 5, Democrat Rebecca Bell-Metereau of Austin is facing incumbent Ken Mercer, a former state representative from San Antonio.

Mercer is a member of a dysfunctional majority on the state education board that is making Texas the laughingstock of the nation. He has used his position on the state board to promote his personal beliefs and force them into to the curriculum. That is not the role of a state board of education member.

Bell-Metereau is a Fulbright scholar and professor at Texas State University in San Marcos.

There is no incumbent in the District 3 race. Democrat Rick Agosto, who held the seat for the last four years, chose not to seek a second term.

Voters in this race have a choice between another well-respected university professor and a man prone to non-responsive answers to most questions.

Anyone who has ever met the two candidates knows there is only one qualified candidate in this race. Republican Tony Cunningham, the Republican candidate, has no clue what the job is about and will talk about the Constitution and job creation when asked about education.

His opponent, Democrat Michael Soto, grew up in Brownsville and was educated at Harvard. He has a son enrolled in the San Antonio Independent School District. He knows public education.

We may never have another election in which this much attention has been paid to SBOE races. Hopefully, we will also never have another election in which the likes of Cynthia Dunbar can get elected without opposition because no one pays attention to SBOE races. Whatever happens in the actual races, a lot more people understand that races like these are as important as the ones they’re used to hearing about and paying attention to, and that’s a good thing.

Endorsement watch: Mistakes are made

The Chron has decided for some unknowable reason to endorse County Treasurer Orlando Sanchez for re-election.

Sanchez contends the treasurer’s office provides a vital checks-and-balances function on county spending, and that it would be a mistake to phase it out, even though he concedes it has been “emasculated” by Commissioners Court in recent years and is understaffed because of a hiring freeze.

Sanchez hopes to reclaim the office’s past role in overseeing county investments, an idea with added momentum due to the legal problems of the current chief financial officer. To that end Sanchez completed a required investment education course to be certified as a county investment officer under the Texas Public Funds Investment Act.

I have no idea what it is that the Chron sees in Sanchez – other than the color of his eyes, of course – but they must see something, since they endorsed him in 2006, too. It would be nice to know just exactly how Sanchez provides that vital check and balance function. Does he even show up at Commissioners Court meetings? Just one concrete example of something he’s done that would be reasonably considered a check or balance on the Court, that’s all I ask. As for the overseeing county investments, at least that answers my question about what steps he’s taken to do that, but it still doesn’t explain what took him so long. Surely that wasn’t a four-year course. If that’s such a fine idea, why didn’t he do it right after he took office?

A goofy endorsement for County Treasurer is no big deal in the grand scheme of things. A misguided endorsement for the SBOE is much more serious.

Republican Marsha Farney of Georgetown and Judy Jennings, an Austin Democrat, are competing to succeed Dunbar in representing the SBOE’s District 10, which includes Austin, Bastrop, Burleson, Colorado, DeWitt, Fayette, Gonzales, Lavaca, Lee, Milam, Waller, Washington and Williamson counties, as well as parts of Brazoria, Fort Bend and Travis counties.

Both are calm, measured, reasonable and actually interested in advancing Texas public education and not hobbling it to suit a political agenda.

[…]

If Farney wins — given that the district was drawn to maximize Republican strength, that’s a strong possibility — her diplomatic and political skills will be tested almost from the first day. She can help move the board past the ideological fog in which it is now hopelessly lost.

We think Farney is up to that job, and that’s why we recommend her.

That’s a lovely thought if Farney really were a moderate, but there’s considerable evidence that she’s not. Why take the chance when there’s a known quantity who will do what they say they want? It makes no sense. At least the Statesman got the other race right, endorsing Rebecca Bell-Metereau, but there’s no reason for them not to have nailed them both.

We’ll only debate you on our terms

From the inbox:

Democratic SBOE candidates accept yet another debate invitation – by all-Republican panel

Earlier: Republicans turn down debate after debate and hide from voters, claiming sponsor League of Women Voters is “too Democratic”

Note: The following statement is in reaction to yesterday’s announcement, made by the Texas Business and Education Coalition, that the organization will host a debate of the major party candidates for the SBOE races in districts 5 and 10, marking the first time of many attempts that the Republican nominees for those seats have not ducked a debate invitation.

Harold Cook, a spokesman for both Democratic candidates, said the following today:

“Judy Jennings and Rebecca Bell-Metereau are happy to debate their opponents and face voters any time, anywhere, unlike either of their opponents. There is no stronger evidence of this than the Democrats’ willingness to enthusiastically participate in a debate at which Bill Hammond, one of Texas’ leading Republicans, is among the moderators. The other two moderators have voted in Republican primary elections as well, leaving little doubt that the Republican SBOE candidates are only playing because they’ve stacked the deck.

“Despite the fact that the Republican SBOE candidates are simply exploiting this opportunity to claim that they are also willing to debate, Jennings and Bell-Metereau are nonetheless enthusiastic about the opportunity. They trust that the organizers and moderators will run a fair and enlightening event.

“Contrast that to the Republican SBOE candidates, who ducked a debate sponsored by the well-respected League of Women Voters, and treated as a joke another one sponsored by LULAC, an organization with more than 75 years of proud non-partisan achievement.

“Jennings and Bell-Metereau are more than happy to debate, even if it means participating in a Republican debate. Here’s hoping the two seemingly shy Republican opponents show up ready to admit to their extremist views, even to the Republican allies packing the room.”

See here and here for background. Debate ducking is a national phenomenon this year. I’ve included the press release from the Texas Business and Education Coalition beneath the fold, which needs to be seen to be believed. Yes, it really was DONE IN ALL CAPS, and it includes at least four misspellings that I spotted – “vying”, “incumbent”, “assistant”, and (my personal favorite) Cynthia Dunbar‘s maiden name. You really can’t make this stuff up.

(more…)

Is this the swan song for the clown show?

After all this time, my heart isn’t into snarking on the SBOE and its latest travashamockery. I just want to point one thing out from how the vote went on that ludicrous and hateful anti-Islam resolution:

State Board of Education 
vote breakdown

For: David Bradley, R-Beaumont; Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands; Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond; Don McLeroy, R-Bryan; Terri Leo, R-Spring; Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas; and Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio.

Against: Geraldine Miller, R-Dallas; Pat Hardy, R-Weatherford; Lawrence Allen, D-Fresno; Mavis Knight, D-Dallas; Bob Craig, R-Lubbock; and Rick Agosto, D-San Antonio.

Did not vote: El Paso Democrat Rene Nuñez was at the meeting earlier but absent for the vote. Corpus Christi Democrat Mary Helen Berlanga was not at the meeting.

Putting aside the fact that it’s a damn shame Nuñez and Berlanga weren’t there, note that the Fors included two people who won’t be around next year. With Don McLeroy being replaced by an inhabitant of this planet, that will make future shenanigans of this type much more difficult. If we can manage to vote in one of Judy Jennings and Rebecca Bell-Metereau, it’ll be damn near impossible. Get them both in, and we may actually be able to seriously undo some of the damage. This was Don McLeroy’s last gasp. Go ahead and get angry about all that he and his henchpeople have done, and then get fired up about fixing it. More coverage here, here, here, here, and here.

Help out our SBOE candidates

There’s an all-day push going on at Daily Kos to raise a few bucks for Democratic SBOE candidates Judy Jennings and Rebecca Bell-Metereau. You can see a few of the diaries touting them here, here, and – my favorite, written by Judy Jennings’ brother – here. The goal is $10K, which by the time this gets published they likely will have blown past. But don’t let that stop you from dropping in a few bucks – these are important races, and there’s always another goal to reach. Go here to help out, with whatever amount you can give. In terms of bang for the buck, you just about can’t do any better than these two races.

If the story of the SBOE were told as a fairy tale

It would look something like this:

The truly scary thing is that none of that was made up. If you want there to be a happy ending, I recommend supporting Rebecca Bell-Metereau and Judy Jennings. Thanks to Harold Cook for the tip.

Fear of debating is contagious

From the inbox:

Rebecca Bell-Metereau, Democratic nominee for State Board of Education District 5, and Judy Jennings, Democratic SBOE nominee in District 10, criticized their Republican opponents and the Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas today, after the RPT Chairman urged the two Republican nominees for those offices to skip a debate which would enable voters to hear from all the candidates in the two races.

The Democrats also challenged the Republican nominees for the two State Board slots to either admit that they begged the Republican Party to provide them an excuse to skip the debate, or to ignore their partisan Republican boss and face their Democratic opponents at the event.

The League of Women Voters-sponsored debates will be held September 28 in Austin, and televised by debate partner KLRU-TV. The debates will be moderated by Evan Smith, a respected journalist who is the Editor-In-Chief of the Texas Tribune and host of “Texas Monthly Talks,” a news program on KLRU-TV.

“It is painfully obvious that the two Republicans running for State Board of Education are worried that the Democratic nominees would trounce them in a fair fight, so they asked their state Party Chairman to give them any flimsy excuse not to participate,” said Harold Cook, a spokesman for Democrats Bell-Metereau and Jennings.

“Republican nominees for SBOE Marsha Farney and Ken Mercer have a lot of questions to answer, and they should come out of hiding and answer them. Are they going to participate in a fair debate, moderated by a respected non-partisan journalist, or are they going to follow the orders of their partisan boss? Texans are tired of the State Board of Education being Republicans’ political football, in which the school children of Texas get kicked around – this is supposed to be about quality public education, not political gamesmanship,” Cook said.

Both the Democrats have notified the League of Women Voters that they will participate in the League’s debate, and cautioned their opponents not to duck voters by failing to participate.

“I am honored to participate in the debate and to share my views with voters on how the State Board of Education can do much better for Texas school children. If my opponent respects the voters whose support she seeks, she will accept the offer to participate in this debate as well,” said Judy Jennings.

Jennings noted that this isn’t the first time her hyper-partisan opponent Marsha Farney has run for cover. Farney refused to respond to repeated attempts by reporters to contact her, after she was caught by the Austin American-Statesman characterizing Democrats in Texas as “America-bashing Democrats” at a Tea Party rally recently.

Both Judy Jennings and Rebecca Bell-Metereau have often decried the partisanship displayed by the incumbent Republican members of the Board.

“I’m pleased to accept the opportunity to let voters know my priorities if they elect me to the SBOE, and I’m equally pleased about the chance to inform voters of what my opponent has already done as an SBOE member,” said Rebecca Bell-Metereau. “I urge him to participate in the debate, because he has some explaining to do regarding his priorities while in office,” she said.

The dispute started yesterday, after Republican Party of Texas Chairman Steve Munisteri released a statement urging both of the Republican nominees to skip the debate, claiming that the Austin Chapter of the League of Women Voters wouldn’t be fair, despite the fact that the organization has hosted such forums for years without complaint. For this event, the League has partnered with Austin PBS affiliate KLRU to televise the debates, and had arranged for Evan Smith to moderate.

From Rick Perry to Greg Abbott to Farney and Mercer and who knows who else. Are there any Republicans out there that aren’t afraid to engage in a debate this year?

Interview with Rebecca Bell-Metereau

Rebecca Bell-Metereau

Next up is Rebecca Bell-Metereau, who is running for SBOE in District 5, which also touches San Antonio and goes north into the Hill Country. Bell-Metereau is also a professor of English, at Texas State University. She is running against former State Rep. Ken Mercer, who was elected to his first term in the SBOE in 2006. Interestingly, current State Rep. Donna Howard ran for this seat in 2002, against Mercer’s predecessor, but she lost by a wide margin. The district is more purple now than it was then, but it remains Republican leaning. So it’s a good thing that Bell-Metereau has done well in fundraising, and will hopefully keep that up. Here’s the interview:

Download the MP3 file

As a reminder, you can see all of my interviews for the 2010 election cycle on my 2010 Election page.

Fundraising: SBOE

Really only two races of interest here, SBOE 5 and SBOE 10. Let’s take a look.

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458837&form=COH

Totals From Report For Rebecca L. Bell-Metereau
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period February 21, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $8,790.51
Total Political Contributions: $69,779.06
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $79.17
Total Expenditures: $29,172.85
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $170.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $43,076.61
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=457461&form=COH

Totals From Report For Kenneth B. Mercer
Filed on: July 14 2010
Covering the Period February 21, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $535.00
Total Political Contributions: $6,675.00
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $45.87
Total Expenditures: $24,969.83
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $1,720.77
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

Not a bad haul at all for Bell-Metereau. SBOE districts are enormous, twice the size of State Senate districts, so that money will only go so far, but in context, it’s quite impressive. Mercer presumably had a few bucks lying around from his previous campaign, and I daresay he’ll depend more on the partisan lean of this district to win rather than any actual campaigning. But if he does plan to run a race, he’ll need to find the money for it first.

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458836&form=COH

Totals From Report For Judith A. Jennings
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period January 01, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $8,876.61
Total Political Contributions: $54,600.81
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $40.29
Total Expenditures: $26,214.86
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $150.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $36,406.78
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458786&form=COH

Totals From Report For Marsha L. Farney
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period April 04, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $0.00
Total Political Contributions: $17,975.00
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $10.75
Total Expenditures: $101,875.04
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $4,049.86
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

Jennings has another decent Democratic haul. Note that Farney’s totals only cover three months while Jennings’ span six; this is because Farney was in a primary runoff that she won in April. However, if you add her contributions raised in the previous three periods to this, she collected $44,276 for the six months, meaning that Jennings still out-raised her.

You may also notice the large sum Farney reported spending in this period. In fact, she spent an equal or greater amount in the two prior periods as well, and going back to the start of the year has dropped nearly $400K on this race. Almost all of that is reported on the Schedule G form, which is for “Political Contibutions Made From Personal Funds”. The disclaimer on each item is “Reimbursement for political contributions intended”. In short, she’s loaned herself all this money but hopes to get future contributors to pay it back. It’s still money spent, but if you look at her most recent form, the vast majority of these expenditures were made in April; in other words, they were runoff expenses, and thus aimed at a limited audience. If she’s spent that much so far to get nominated, it stands to reason she’ll spend at least as much to get elected, and while as I’ve said there’s a difference between raising money and spending it, that will still be of great use to her. That said, Jennings clearly has the advantage in the breadth of her campaign.

There is a third race that we’re all watching for the SBOE, of course, and that’s Michael Soto’s race in SBOE 3. Here’s Soto’s report – he raised $11K and has about $8K on hand. I didn’t add his report in like the others because he’s running in a strong D district – it’s about ten points more Democratic than SBOE 5 is Republican – and as such, I didn’t even bother to look up his opponent’s name. But here it is for your perusal nonetheless.

The clown show finally calls it a wrap

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some other state to be the national laughingstock again. The Court of Criminal Appeals gives it a good run for its money, but you just can’t out-embarrass the SBOE, and every time they meet it gets worse. All I can say is thank goodness that two of the worst of these clowns will never hold public office again.

Anyway, here’s your wrapup from the Day Two festivities, which carried over a few minutes past midnight and into Day Three, from the Trib, TFN, and Abby Rapoport. And here’s your Day Three liveblogging and other reports, from TFN, the Trib, TFN again, the Trib again, Abby Rapoport, and Steven Schafersman. Mainstream media coverage is here, here, and here. Burka and Stace also weigh in, and of course Martha was working it on Twitter. May those who had to endure all this get a nice long vacation to recover their sanity.

Most of the heavy lifting came during Thursday’s marathon session. Friday was about finishing touches and final votes. The highlight was the restoration of Thomas Jefferson to the world history curriculum, reversing a decision that has drawn the most derision from pretty much everywhere on the planet. That’s good for TJ, but not so much for his fellow Enlightenment figure James Madison, who didn’t make the cut. The lowlight, if you have to pick just one, was the Board’s ratification of the idea that there is no “separation of church and state”. As noted by the Trib:

[M]embers this afternoon passed an amendment to the state’s socials studies standards calling for students to “contrast” the intent of the nation’s founders with the notion of separation of church and state.

It reads: “Examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America and guaranteed its free exercise by saying that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, and compare and contrast this to the phrase, ‘separation of church and state.’”

The motion came from Bob Craig, R-Lubbock, a moderate Republican who worked on the language with arch-conservative former chair Don McLeroy, R-Bryan. With the exception of the adding the word “compare” along with “contrast” and including some verbiage directly from the First Amendment, what the board passed mirrored what McLeroy had originally proposed.

I have several statements, from the Texas Freedom Network, Bill White, State Rep. Mike Villarreal, and Fort Bend County Democratic Party Chair Stephen Brown, about this travesty beneath the fold. Texas Politics has a reaction from US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who echoes former Bush Education Secretary Rod Paige. The only thing we can do about this is elect some better SBOE members. Three such candidates running this year are Judy Jennings, Rebecca Bell-Metereau, and Michael Soto. The TDP got video statements from all three at the meeting, which you can see below:

Here’s a video of TFN President Kathy Miller, whose group has been a stalwart all throughout this process and which deserves your support as much as any candidate:

We can’t afford any more of this crap. We have a chance to do something about it this year. Please help these folks out.

(more…)

The historians have their say

The various legislative groups held their SBOE hearings on Wednesday. In pointing out the many ways in which that unesteemed body screwed the pooch on social studies, they joined with others in calling for a delay in adopting the new curriculum standard, pointing out that doing so could save the state a few bucks at a time when such things are needed.

With severe budget projections facing Texas next year, it makes sense to postpone the $800 million price tag for new history books, some legislators said.

“There’s no rush necessary. We have plenty of time to do it right,” said Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, which organized the special legislative hearing.

A dozen historians and other experts took aim at the proposal, which the education board plans to adopt May 21.

Historians described the document as bloated with detail and a distortion of history that glorifies the achievements of white males. Board members made nearly 300 amendments, changing recommendations of the board’s own experts so significantly that they may have violated state law, some lawmakers said.

That’s a pretty good idea, and it’s also a fairly standard thing to delay making some purchases to help balance budgets. There are certainly plenty of worse ways for the Lege to find cost reductions this biennium.

During the testimony, Texas Education Agency Commissioner Robert Scott described the SBOE’s whitewashing of history as “payback” by the social conservative bloc. You can read a transcription of his remarks at BOR. You don’t have to be a connoisseur of the McLeroy/Dunbar/Bradley/Mercer oevre to realize that resentment is the main force that drives them, but it’s always nice to have it made clear and on the record. As Martha notes, this was just another way of saying that elections have consequences, which is why it’s important to elect qualified and responsible people to the SBOE. We see what happens when we don’t. EoW has more.

More on the SBOE

The Texas Freedom Network does a victory dance over the defeat of wingnut SBOE member Don McLeroy, noting that overall the forces of good did much better than the far right did.

“Don McLeroy was right when he said this election was a referendum on what the board has done over the past four years,” [TFN President Kathy] Miller said. “Voters sent a clear message by rejecting the ringleader of the faction that has repeatedly dragged our public schools into the nation’s divisive culture wars over the past four years. Parents want a state board that focuses on educating their kids, not promoting divisive political and personal agendas.”

The Republican primary between McLeroy and challenger Thomas Ratliff of Mount Pleasant had the highest profile of all the state board contests. In addition to McLeroy’s defeat in District 9, Randy Rives of Odessa lost his race against incumbent Bob Craig of Lubbock in the District 15 Republican primary, and Joan Muenzler lost her District 3 GOP primary against fellow San Antonian Tony Cunningham. Both Rives and Muenzler were backed by far-right groups such as WallBuilders and the Texas Pastor Council.

In addition, Austin attorney Brian Russell, who Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, recruited to run for her District 10 seat, was forced into a Republican runoff against Marsha Farney of Georgetown.

The NCSE also celebrates McLeroy’s defeat. There’s a decent chance that Dunbar’s old seat could flip to the Democrats, where Judy Jennings is the nominee. Democrats also have a strong candidate in Rebecca Bell-Metereau running against Ken Mercer in district 5, though that’s a tougher hill to climb. Here’s an email I got from Suzy Allison, that lays out what we have to look forward to from here:

PRIMARY RESULTS ARE IN – THE LINEUP FOR THE NOVEMBER ELECTION

There are eight SBOE seats which will be filled in November. Here are the results so far.

Some you win, some you lose, one goes into overtime.

District 1 – 38 counties from El Paso to Starr County along the Rio Grande, stretching north to include Midland County, Mason and Bandera Counties. Rene Nunez (D), incumbent. Nunez is the Democratic nominee, and will be challenged by Carlos “Charlie” Garza, the Republican nominee. Neither had a primary challenger. This district’s down-ballot race non-Presidential year performance in 2006 was 53.5% D, 46.5% R.

District 3 – All or part of 13 counties from Bexar in the north to Hidalgo County in the south. Rick Agosto (D), incumbent. Michael Soto is the Democratic nominee (Agosto did not file for re-election), Tony Cunningham is the Republican Nominee. The down-ballot off-year numbers from 2006 for this district are 57.9% D, 42.1% R.

District 4 – Part of Harris County and a small part of Fort Bend County. Lawrence A. Allen, Jr. (D), incumbent. Allen is returning to the SBOE, as he had no primary challenge and has no Republican opponent in this overwhelmingly Democratic district.

District 5 – Parts of Bexar and Travis Counties, as well as Bell, Burnet, Llano, Gillespie, Blanco, Kendall, Hays, Caldwell, Guadalupe and Comal Counties. Ken Mercer (R), incumbent. Mercer won his primary and is the Republican nominee. Rebecca Bell-Metereau is the Democratic nominee. The 2006 down-ballot percentages for this district are 41.2% D, 58.8% R.

District 9 – From Fannin, Lamar and Red River Counties in the north, stretching south to include Brazos, Grimes and Walker Counties, includes part of Collin County. 29 counties lie entirely or partly in this district. Thomas Ratliff has beaten Don McLeroy in the Republican primary and will be seated on the SBOE. No Democrat filed in this Republican district.

District 10 – Parts of Travis County on the western end, and Fort Bend and Brazoria Counties on the eastern end, this also includes Williamson, Milam, Bastrop, Burleson, Lee, Fayette, Gonzales, DeWitt, Lavaca, Colorado, Austin, Washington and Waller Counties. Cynthia Dunbar (R), incumbent. Dunbar chose not to run for re-election. Judy Jennings is the Democratic nominee who had no primary opposition. Brian Russell and Marsha Farney will face each other in the Republican run-off. This district’s down-ballot performance in 2006 was 46.7% D, 53.3% R.

District 12 – Parts of Dallas and Collin Counties, Rockwall County. Geraldine “Tincy” Miller (R), incumbent. George M. Clayton, in a surprise, has beaten Geraldine “Tincy” Miller and will take a seat on the SBOE. Miller was usually a constructive voice on the SBOE. Clayton is relatively unknown, but some of his comments in a newspaper interview make it possible to doubt that he will be as constructive. This Republican district had no Democrat filed. This district’s 2006 down-ballot numbers were 37.8% D, 62.2% R.

District 15 – This 75-county (as in huge) panhandle district includes Lubbock County as its largest population center. Bob Craig (R), the incumbent, beat his primary opponent and will return to the SBOE. No Democrat filed. This district’s down-ballot numbers in 2006 were 30.2% D, 69.8% R.

Still unclear what Clayton’s defeat of Tincy Miller means. His website is sparse and amateurish, and while I get a somewhat hinky vibe from it, I really can’t draw any conclusions about him from it. Far as I can tell, no one has done a story on him or interview with him since Tuesday, and the TFN still hasn’t addressed his victory – for that matter, neither has anyone on the other side – so for now he’s a cipher. Stuff like this doesn’t help:

Clayton managed to topple the incumbent with his low-budget campaign, mostly conducted through appearances around the district and a Web site promoting his run.

“If you think that having a working teacher on the State Board of Education might be a refreshing, productive and appropriate move, then you will need to vote for me,” he said on his site.

Clayton of Richardson, who is academic coordinator at North Dallas High School, said on his site that “personal political views of board members should play no part in their decisions regarding textbook content or curriculum” – an apparent slap at the board’s social conservative bloc.

He did not return phone calls seeking comment Wednesday.

Hard to say what the guy plans to do or how he plans to act if he isn’t talking. If anyone knows anything about him, please speak up in the comments. Thanks.

Election results: McLeroy loses!

The second-best news of the evening is that wackjob SBOE member Don McLeroy lost to Thomas Ratliff, thus making the state’s worst elected body at least somewhat less dysfunctional.

The board’s balance of power is delicate. Though it’s had ten Republicans and five Democrats serving, seven socially conservative Republicans formed a reliable voting bloc that, with the swing vote of Democratic member Rick Agosto, gave them the power to advance a socially conservative agenda.

That’s over now. Agosto did not seek re-election, and his probable replacement, Democrat Michael Soto, originally set out to challenge him and isn’t likely to take the same positions Agosto took. (Republican Tony Cunningham will run against Soto in the general election, but Cunningham hasn’t filed an campaign finance report since 2006, while Soto’s last report showed him raising $14,000.)

Without Agosto, the social conservative bloc needed both McLeroy and Ken Mercer to survive the election in order to maintain its power. Both races featured incumbent social conservatives versus more mainstream Republican lawyer-lobbyists. Both were expected to be close. One was, one wasn’t.

McLeroy lost by just over one thousand votes against Thomas Ratliff, a lawyer and lobbyist who also happens to be the son of former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff.

The vote tally I see on the SOS Election Night Returns page is Ratliff 56,207, McLeroy 55,368. A recount is possible, but that margin is unlikely to change by more than a handful. No matter what else happens this year, that one election has enabled Texas to take a huge step forward.

The other big SBOE result, which apparently caught the entire political world by surprise – not the only such result for the evening, as you’ll see – was the ouster of longtime Board member Geraldine “Tincy” Miller by some guy no one has ever heard of.

Miller, who has served on the board since 1984, lost to challenger George Clayton, an educator with an unorthodox platform. Clayton only spent $1,788 on the race compared to Miller’s $54,685.

[…]

What Clayton’s addition will mean for the board isn’t clear. His platform, according to his website, argues for ending “all punitive measures against teachers resulting from poor student performance on all district and state mandated tests” and for requiring that all curriculum proposals “be approved by a general vote of teachers in a district.”

As for his views on social issues, the traditional flashpoint for the state board, the best clues come from his interview with the Dallas Observer, in which Clayton said: “It’s seems to me you can’t be taught the one [evolution] without the other [creationism]. It’s an impossibility to talk about evolution without mentioning creationism.”

Even the Texas Freedom Network was unprepared for this one. I’m sure we’ll be learning more about him soon.

Elsewhere, Ken Mercer easily defeated Tim Tuggey, so the route to improvement in that district goes through Rebecca Bell-Metereau‘s campaign; mainstream incumbent Republican Bob Craig beat back his wingnut challenger; and there will be a GOP runoff for Cynthia Dunbar’s seat, with Rebecca Osborne unfortunately finishing third. Get to know Judy Jennings, people.

Endorsement watch: Statesman on the SBOE

The Statesman makes some recommendations in SBOE primaries in hopes of getting a better, or at least a slightly less dysfunctional, Board for the coming year.

In the District 5 Republican primary, Tim Tuggey, 54, gets our endorsement. Tuggey, running against incumbent Ken Mercer, is a lawyer and lobbyist from Austin who graduated with honors from the University of Texas School of Law, served as a captain in the U.S. Army and is a product of Texas public schools.

Tuggey brings a level head and financial management experience to the board. It speaks volumes that he has earned the endorsement of business leader Red McCombs and H-E-B. CEO Charles Butt for a campaign that focuses on improving dropout rates, preparing students for college or work after high school and competent oversight of the school fund.

In the District 5 Democratic primary, Rebecca Bell-Metereau, 60, is the best choice. She is running against Daniel Boone, Josiah James Ingalls and Robert Bohmfalk.

Bell-Metereau brings strong skills to the job as a longtime English professor at Texas State University. With a distinguished academic background, experience raising two daughters in San Marcos public schools, high energy and thorough knowledge of the challenges facing public schools, she won’t put politics over children’s welfare.

For District 10, we endorse Republican Rebecca Osborne, 51, a teacher in the Round Rock school district. It would be a refreshing change to have someone on the board who could give a contemporary classroom perspective. In addition to college preparation, she wants schools to offer career and vocational instruction for students who decide to go directly to jobs after high school.

[…]

We’re also making an endorsement in the District 9 race that includes Brazos County, home of Texas A&M University. We recommend Thomas Ratliff in the Republican primary.

Ratliff, 42, of Mount Pleasant, a graduate of Texas Tech University with a UT master’s degree, has immersed himself in public school issues, including serving as a room parent for his daughter’s second grade class. He understands the urgency of the task of getting students ready to compete in a global society.

His opponent, incumbent Don McLeroy, 63, is stuck in the past, advocating a back-to-basics curriculum that all but guarantees that Texas students will lag behind their peers. Time to end McLeroy’s tenure.

That’s not even counting McLeroy’s – and Mercer’s – troglodytic views on science, history, and just about everything else. The Trib has a good overview of the SBOE 5 GOP primary as well, and you just can’t help but notice how much this stuff is about politics and grievances for the likes of Mercer and McLeroy and their destructive crew. Getting those two to join their retiring comrade Cynthia Dunbar on the sidelines would be such a huge step forward.

Endorsement watch: Cisneros for Bell-Metereau

I’ve written about the GOP primary in SBOE District 5 a couple of times, as there’s a sensible Republican (Tim Tuggey) running against incumbent wingnut Ken Mercer there. SBOE 5 also has a competitive Democratic primary, and by all indications I’ve seen the best candidate among them is Texas State University English professor Rebecca Bell-Metereau. She got a nice coup this week when former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros endorsed her candidacy.

“Rebecca Bell-Metereau is the kind of person Texas families need at the State Board of Education. She’ll stand up for our neighborhood schools, our children and our future,” Cisneros said.

“She knows that the State Board of Education should focus on our children and schools, not a right-wing agenda. That’s why I’m supporting her–Rebecca will stand up for Texas kids,” he said.

[…]

“Republican incumbent Ken Mercer is a divisive figure on the board. He uses his seat as a platform from which to ignite controversy and fight skirmishes over obscure ideological points rather than to serve the real-world needs of schoolchildren, parents and teachers,” Bell-Metereau said.

Bell-Metereau is one of four Democrats running for the nomination. She is the only candidate picking up major endorsements from Democratic organizations and education groups.

“When I’m elected, I will work to return the SBOE to its core objective, which is to ensure that our neighborhood schools are the envy of the nation,” Bell-Metereau said.

That would be nice, wouldn’t it? Those of you in the San Antonio area, take a look at Rebecca Bell-Metereau and consider giving her your vote in the primary. Thanks to BOR for the tip.

Endorsement watch: ParentPAC for Tim Tuggey

The Texas ParentPAC has gotten itself involved in another Republican SBOE primary, this time on behalf of San Antonio’s Tim Tuggey, who is challenging incumbent Ken Mercer in District 5. Here’s their release:

The bipartisan Texas Parent PAC today announced its endorsement of Tim Tuggey in the Republican primary for District 5 State Board of Education, which includes all or part of 12 counties in Central and South Texas.

“Tim Tuggey will be a partner with parents, educators, and elected school board trustees and an advocate for all schoolchildren,” said Texas Parent PAC chair Carolyn Boyle of Austin.”He has strong leadership skills, an engaging personality, and a conservative and collaborative temperament that will be a real asset on the State Board of Education.”

Texas Parent PAC was created by parents in 2005 with the goal of electing more state leaders who will consistently stand up for public education. A broad base of individuals and business leaders supports the PAC’s bipartisan grassroots campaign efforts.

The 15-member elected State Board of Education is not well-known by voters. The board is responsible for establishing policy, adopting curriculum standards and textbooks, and providing leadership for the state’s public school system. In Texas, 4.7 million students attend public schools on more than 8,300 campuses.

“This election has statewide implications, because the State Board of Education sets policy affecting every child and every public school classroom in Texas,” said Texas Parent PAC board member Pam Meyercord of Dallas. “Tim Tuggey understands there are too many education dictates coming from Austin and Washington, and more local control will help to achieve excellence in public education for all Texas students.”

Texas Parent PAC leaders said Tuggey has a proven record of leadership in three different cities in SBOE District 5. He is well-connected in rural and urban communities and understands their unique needs for education and work force development. For example:

In San Antonio, Tuggey served as chairman of VIA Metropolitan Transit, Leadership San Antonio, and Free Trade Alliance San Antonio, as well as a range of other civic activities.

In Austin, he is managing partner of business law firm Tuggey Rosenthal Pauerstein Sandoloski Agather LLP. The firm also has offices in San Antonio and Washington, D.C.

At Fort Hood in Bell County, Captain Tuggey commanded the 230 men and women in Company A, 54th Signal Battalion, which deployed all over the world to provide tactical communications.

Tuggey describes himself as an “Army brat,” as he followed his parents all over the United States and the world while his father was an Army officer. He graduated from Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi and then received a four-year Army ROTC scholarship to the University of Richmond in Virginia, where he received a bachelor’s degree in English and political science. He later earned a master’s degree in foreign affairs at the University of Virginia and a law degree from the University of Texas at Austin.

Tuggey has three children, Katherine, Chris, and Nora. His wife, Margaret, is a teacher at Akins High School in the Austin ISD.

Texas Parent PAC is endorsing a small and select number of Republican and Democratic candidates statewide. The PAC describes its endorsed candidates as “men and women of integrity, open and responsive to parents, actively involved in their communities, and committed to investing in public education to achieve economic prosperity in Texas.”

Public school supporters are encouraged to visit www.timtuggey.com to find a map of District 5 and persuade their friends and relatives throughout the large district to vote for Tuggey during the early voting period February 16 – 26 and on election day, March 2. Texas Parent PAC is also urging parents to volunteer in the Tuggey campaign and/or donate money and in-kind services.

As I’ve said before, my preferred outcome is for a Democrat to win this seat, and from what I have seen it looks like Rebecca Bell-Metereau is the best candidate for that. But if we don’t get that, then getting a better Republican to replace Mercer is still an improvement. If you or someone you know lives in SBOE District 5 (your voter registration card should indicate this) and are of the Republican persuasion, please check out Tim Tuggey for the primary.

The DMN on the SBOE

The DMN takes a look at the various State Board of Education races for 2010. Much of this we already know, but two things to note:

Eight of the 15 board seats are on the ballot this year.

Three of those, including McLeroy’s, are held by members of the social conservative faction. Another social conservative running for re-election is Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, who has similarly drawn a strong challenger in the GOP primary, San Antonio lawyer Tim Tuggey. Four Democrats have also filed for the post.

[…]

Republican Bob Craig of Lubbock, an incumbent who has often been at odds with the social conservatives, is facing a primary challenge from a former school board chairman in Odessa, Randy Rives, who pushed through a controversial Bible study class and an abstinence-only sex education program in that district.

The Texas Freedom Network elaborates further.

Craig’s primary opponent is Randy Rives (no Web site yet), who served one term on the Ector County Independent School District Board of Trustees in Odessa. In 2005 and 2006, Rives pushed through approval of a deeply flawed high school Bible course, with the board choosing class materials from the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools. A Texas Freedom Network Education Fund report in 2005 revealed that the National Council’s sloppy curriculum was riddled with factual errors and promoted an almost exclusively fundamentalist Protestant interpretation of the Bible. After local parents sued, school district officials agreed to stop using the curriculum.

Rives also was a key player in having the local school board implement a strict abstinence-only policy on sex education classes in the district. Today Ector County is still struggling to bring down a teen pregnancy rate that is highest in the state and twice the national average.

Craig, a traditional Republican conservative, has been a consensus-seeker on the state board. Sure enough, that has earned him the bitter hostility of far-right extremists who oppose teaching about evolution in science classrooms and have repeatedly attacked curriculum recommendations made by teachers and academic experts (condemned by the far right as “radicals” and “educrats”).

No Democrat filed for the seat. Should Craig lose his bid for re-election to Rives, the state board could move even further to the right.

[…]

District 5

Incumbent Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, faces a tough fight in his Republican primary against Tim Tuggey, an Austin attorney and past chair of San Antonio’s VIA Metropolitan Transit agency. Tuggey has the backing of a number of San Antonio heavyweights, including businessmen Red McCombs, Bartell Zachry and David Spencer. Mercer has been a reliable vote for the board’s far-right faction.

Four Democrats have filed for the District 5 seat. Rebecca Bell-Metereau is an English and film professor at Texas State University-San Marcos. Robert Bohmfalk is a mental health case manager from Seguin. Daniel Boone of Canyon Lake is a retired career Air Force officer and a professional psychologist who has taught at the university level. Josiah Ingalls is a machine operator in Austin.

So the good news is that there’s another way for something good to happen, if Mercer gets knocked off in his primary. The bad news is that there is a way for something bad to happen, and that would be if Bob Craig were to lose. And unfortunately, whatever happens in this election, the Board will have already done whatever damage it’s going to do to the social studies textbooks. The best we can hope for is to begin the turnaround. The Sensuous Curmudgeon has more.

The SBOE slate

Martha has a great rundown of the slate of candidates for the State Board of Education, along with some partisan index numbers for the districts, which you should check out. The best part about this is that with Michael Soto replacing Rick Agosto in District 3, the Board is assured of being at least a little bit better. Dems have a decent shot at claiming the now-open seat being vacated by the loony Cynthia Dunbar in 10, but even if Judy Jennings doesn’t pull it off, we may get a better Republican in there if Rebecca Osborne is their nominee. Knocking off the crappy Ken Mercer in District 5 is a much longer shot, but Rebecca Bell-Metereau and Daniel Boone are both good candidates for the Democrats. And finally, if Thomas Ratliff can take out ur-wingnut Don McLeroy in the GOP primary in 9, that would be beyond awesome.

I suppose one benefit to having a Board that’s as full of clowns and losers as this one is that there’s a lot of upside and very little risk in an election like this. The potential is there for the SBOE of 2011 to be a vast improvement over the SBOE of 2009. So go take a look at the list of candidates, and see who you can help to make that happen this March and November. The Trib has more.

Let’s make this a bad year for Don McLeroy

Don McLeroy is a wee bit concerned about losing one of his allies on the SBOE.

State Board of Education former Chair (and current member) Don McLeroy wasn’t too concerned about losing Democratic swing-vote Rick Agosto. At least not at first.

“The big impact will be if I depart,” McLeroy said over the phone.

[…]

But an hour later, McLeroy called back with some different news. Agosto’s abstention on the math book, which McLeroy dismissed initially, was actually essential, he said. “We never could have done that without him,” McLeroy said in a voice message.

“He did a lot of thinking on his own,” McLeroy explained in the recording. “He was not a rubber stamp for anybody.” For those unfamiliar with McLeroy, not being a rubber stamp is high praise.

Why the change? Perhaps McLeroy realized the danger the conservatives on the board would face without Agosto.

If that’s not a good reason to be happy about Agosto’s departure and get behind the candidacy of Michael Soto, I don’t know what would be. Even better is the news that State Rep. Brian McCall is endorsing McLeroy’s primary opponent, Thomas Ratliff. And we’ve got some good Democratic candidates lining up to take aim at some of McLeroy’s other buddies. If we can make 2010 a bad year for Don McLeroy, it will be a very good year for Texas and all of its students.