With all 15 State Board of Education (SBOE) seats on the ballot next year, there will be a lot of talk about the SBOE, particularly by the liberal media and the extreme liberal group Texas Freedom Network, known for regularly losing battles at the SBOE. Through the election season, we can certainly count on both the media and TFN to continue their attempts to denigrate the board, particularly its conservative members.
Lobbyist, Moderate Republican Ratliff Faces Primary Challenge
There are two races that will likely get the most attention, in our opinion. First, the re-election bid of the only registered lobbyist on the SBOE, Thomas Ratliff, a moderate Republican will be closely watched and discussed. Mr. Ratliff is still serving in his first term and has probably received more attention and drawn the most scrutiny of any other newly elected SBOE member because of his role as a paid lobbyist in Texas, for clients such as Microsoft. Thomas Ratliff’s role as a lobbyist resulted in the Texas Attorney General researching the matter and concluding that a registered lobbyist who is paid to lobby on matters relating to SBOE business is, by law, ineligible to serve on the SBOE. The lobbyist issue came up immediately in Mr. Ratliff’s first round of meetings serving on the SBOE in 2011, when he chose to recuse himself from an SBOE meeting to avoid a conflict of interest.
Mr. Ratliff is being challenged in the Republican primary by Randy Stevenson, a former SBOE member himself. Mr. Ratliff proudly professes to be a moderate Republican. Mr. Ratliff achieved a narrow primary victory in 2010 over the conservative leader, Don McLeroy, by a mere 402 votes, out of 116,000.
Republican Incumbent Clayton Announces He’s Gay, Challenger is SBOE Veteran
Second, George Clayton’s effort for re-election is sure to draw a lot of attention as he tries to hang on to the seat he won in 2010 from longtime SBOE member Geraldine “Tincy” Miller. Mrs. Miller had served on the SBOE for over 25 years prior to her narrow defeat by Mr. Clayton in the 2010 Republican primary, by a 52% – 48% margin. Mr. Clayton was considered a relative unknown compared to Ms. Miller. Ms. Miller is now the challenger and appears very determined to win back this seat. We have received numerous reports from our grassroots friends in the Dallas area that confirm that Ms. Miller is working very hard to secure support.
Now that Mr. Clayton has served nearly two years on the SBOE and has come out as gay (Mr. Clayton revealed recently that he in fact has a “male partner that lives with me”), voters may have a better idea of where he stands on important issues. Mr. Clayton revealing this information now about his sexual orientation is expected to draw a lot of attention to this Republican primary race with sex education curriculum on the SBOE’s agenda for next year.
Moderate Republican Craig Vacates His Seat, Endorses Carlise
Other races of interest are the seat vacated by longtime moderate Republican, Bob Craig. Mr. Craig was a holdout on numerous key votes on the Science and Social Studies standards, often losing his initial efforts to defeat conservatives and then working compromises and changing his vote to side with conservatives when the outcomes were inevitable. Mr. Craig and fellow moderate Thomas Ratliff have already endorsed their preference for his seat, Anette Carlisle, an Amarillo I.S.D. school board member. Mrs. Carlisle has been described as looking to continue Craig’s more moderate approach.
Republican Farney Seeks House Seat, SBOE Seat Trends Solid Red
Dr. Marsha Farney, still serving in her first SBOE term, has also announced that she will not run again. Dr. Farney considers herself a “common sense conservative,” but the media often labels her a “moderate Republican.” This open seat is also sure to attract some attention, but in 2010 Dr. Farney, running as a conservative, handed her liberal Democrat opponent a huge defeat, by a 56% – 40% margin in a district that included a large portion of the City of Austin and Travis County.
The Rest: Mercer, Cargill Expected to Hold, Democrat Berlanga Leaves Seat Up for Grabs
Conservative leaders, Ken Mercer and SBOE Chair Barbara Cargill, have also reportedly drawn primary challengers but are expected to hold their seats. Mr. Mercer secured victory by an enormous margin in 2010 (69% – 31%), when he was challenged by well-funded lobbyist, Tim Tuggey, in the 2010 Republican primary and Mercer soundly defeated liberal Democrat Rebecca Bell-Metereau (59% – 36%) in the general election, in a district that included South Austin and Travis County.
Mary Helen Berlanga, a longtime Democrat SBOE member from Corpus Christi will also not seek reelection. She’s just a Democrat though, as it seems the media does not typically use qualifiers or other modifiers like “liberal” or “left wing” when they describe Democrat SBOE members, even though you’ll see the media use numerous words to describe the type of Republicans on the SBOE. But for Democrats, they are just Democrats. So are we to conclude that all of the Democrats on the SBOE are liberal and left-wing? Something to think about. It is safe to say that Ms. Berlanga could be considered one of the most liberal members of the SBOE, as she fought time and again to have Dolores Huerta, an avowed Socialist, included in our Social Studies standards as a model for good citizenship for students, twice. That’s right, the fight was not over Dolores Huerta being including in the Texas History standards at all. She was. No, Ms. Berlanga would not be satisfied unless the Socialist was covered twice. She lost this battle and many others, thankfully.
Conservative Republican Charile Garza, from the greater El Paso area is expected to have a fight on his hands to keep his seat as the new map approved as a result of redistricting points towards less conservative support, based on the opinion of many. Garza, a long-time educator and decorated military veteran, pulled off a shocking victory in 2010, over 20-year SBOE member, Democrat Rene Nunez.
Liberal Democrat Michael Soto is also seeking election to a second term. Now that his affiliations to far left groups like Texas Freedom Network and Americans United for Separation of Church and State are more well known, it will be interesting to see if he has a closer race this time around.
Liberty Institute will once again have a Voters Guide with the SBOE candidates’ responses to our questionnaire, available in early February of 2012.
It should be an interesting time for the SBOE heading into election season.