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Tom Maynard

Precinct analysis: SBOE districts

There are 15 members on the State Board of Education, five Democrats and ten Republicans. Of those ten Republican-held seats, four of them were in districts that were interesting in 2016:


Dist   Incumbent  Clinton   Trump   Obama  Romney
=================================================
SBOE5     Mercer    47.0%   46.8%   42.9%   54.7%
SBOE6   Bahorich    46.3%   48.6%   38.8%   59.7%
SBOE10   Maynard    42.5%   51.6%   40.5%   57.0%
SBOE12    Miller    44.4%   50.1%   38.7%   59.7%
SBOE7   Bradley*    37.1%   59.2%   35.2%   63.6%

Dist   Incumbent    Burns Keasler Hampton  Keller
=================================================
SBOE5     Mercer    43.5%   51.3%   41.7%   53.7%
SBOE6   Bahorich    41.5%   54.8%   38.5%   58.7%
SBOE10   Maynard    39.8%   54.7%   40.1%   54.9%
SBOE12    Miller    39.1%   56.6%   37.7%   58.8%
SBOE7   Bradley*    35.9%   60.9%   36.6%   60.8%

I included David Bradley’s numbers here because his will be an open seat in 2018, but as you can see he really doesn’t belong. Add Ken Mercer’s SBOE5 to the list of districts that were carried by Hillary Clinton. I hadn’t realized it till I looked at the data. I had previously identified Mercer’s district as a viable target last year, and indeed it was a close race – he won by four points and failed to clear fifty percent. SBOE terms are four years so the next shot at Mercer isn’t until 2020, but he needs to be on the priority list then.

Districts 6 and 10 were also on the ballot last year and thus not up again till 2020. District 6, which is entirely within Harris County, shifted about seven points in a blue direction, and while I’d expect it to continue to shift as the county does, it’s still got a ways to go to get to parity. With SBOE districts being twice as big as Senate districts and generally being completely under the radar, getting crossovers is a challenge. District 10 didn’t really shift much, but it’s close enough to imagine something good happening in a strong year. District 12 is the only one on the ballot next year, and it’s the reddest of the four based on the downballot data. But if there’s a Trump effect next year, who knows what could happen. It certainly deserves a decent candidate. Keep it in mind as we go forward.

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: SBOE

The Chron makes endorsements in two SBOE races.

Dakota Carter

Dakota Carter

District 6

When she was first appointed as head of the State Board of Education in 2015, Donna Bahorich was condemned as an anti-education advocate of homeschooling who would drag the board back to its embarrassing days of fractious infighting. But Bahorich, who represents part of Harris County, has failed to transform into the forewarned partisan. Instead, the former Dan Patrick campaign manager has used statewide surveys to gauge parents, business leaders and educators on the issues facing the SBOE.

However, given the issues of standardized testing and age-appropriate curricula that currently vex the SBOE, we encourage voters to back her Democratic challenger, R. Dakota Carter, who has a unique expertise in these fields.

District 10

Our choice for this sprawling central district, which includes the cities of Georgetown, Bastrop and Sealy, is incumbent Tom Maynard.

When he first ran for the seat in 2012, some flags went up about Maynard’s allegiance to hard-right ideology. However, by and large during his term, Maynard has functioned less as an ideologue and more as a public servant who has the best interests of Texas’ children at heart.

The way they wrote these, they could just as easily have swapped which incumbents and challengers they endorsed. Bahorich, who is my SBOE member, has apparently been more of a work-together type than an ideologue, and it has at least blunted the opposition if not earned her a bit of support. See Zeph Capo’s comments in this Chron overview of the SBOE races for the evidence. Bahorich is a strong favorite to win in her 60-40 district – if anyone should be worried about the close poll numbers and surge in voter registration in Texas, it’s Tom Maynard in District 10.

For his part, Dakota Carter has been a very active campaigner and gotten a lot of Dems on board with him. He’s got an uphill battle, but he’s done all he can to make a contest of it. I will be very interested to see what the precinct results look like in this one when it’s all over.

SBOE passes anti-voucher resolution

Good for them.

The Texas State Board of Education voted 10-5 on Friday to urge the Legislature to reject proposals that would result in public funds being allocated for private educational institutions.

The resolution, authored by Board of Education member Ruben Cortez, Jr., D-Brownsville, asks the legislature to “reject all vouchers, taxpayer savings grants, tax credits, or any other mechanisms that have the effect of reducing funding to public schools.” It mirrored an amendment the House recently passed to the state budget by a wide margin banning the use of public dollars for private schools.

[…]

Though the resolution eventually passed, it initially endured stiff opposition from a number of board members – including some who said the issue was outside of the board’s purview.

Member Tom Maynard, R-Georgetown, while stressing that he was a “huge supporter” of public schools, said that the board should leave the issue to the legislature.

“I get the voucher question all the time. And my position is, this isn’t a matter for the SBoE,” he said. “This resolution puts us in a position of commenting on things that are not within our constitutional authority.”

Maynard moved to postpone the resolution indefinitely, which provoked a debate about the role of the State Board in evaluating education policy. Member Marisa B. Perez, D-San Antonio, argued that the issue was central to the Board’s responsibilities.

“Saying that it doesn’t fall under our guise is not an acceptable answer to the teachers who are asking for our support,” she said. “Siphoning money from our public schools and turning them over to our private schools is definitely something we should address.”

The question about going outside the board’s duties is a valid one. The SBOE doesn’t have budgetary authority, but they do play a role in school finance as the trustees of the Permanent School Fund. I don’t have a problem with them passing a non-binding resolution, but I admit I’d feel differently if they had voted in favor of vouchers. I wonder if they were motivated in part to take this action by getting their noses out of joint over their potential loss of charter school oversight.

Only one of the board members explicitly endorsed the proposals condemned in the resolution – Geraldine “Tincy” Miller, R-Dallas.

“I believe in the American right to educate my children in the manner that I want,” she said. In addition to Miller and Mercer, other board members that voted against the resolution were chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, Donna Bahorich, R-Houston, and David Bradley, R-Beaumont.

Yes, of course my SBOE member supported vouchers, even though she once said she wouldn’t. Don’t blame me, I voted for Traci Jensen. Hair Balls has more.