Today is election day and while most of the focus is on the U.S. Senate seat, the Texas State Board of Education, particularly the Republican primary races, have also been getting a lot of attention. For U.S. Senate, Ted Cruz and David Dewhurst have both received some headliner endorsements while Tom Leppert has continued to stay in the discussion as well. Several polls seem to indicate this race will be heading to a runoff, but we will see tonight.
Want to know where the candidates stand? Get our Free Voters Guide at www.freevotersguide.com
SBOE Races: Lobbyist, Gay Republican, Moderates vs. Conservatives
There have been numerous articles written about the fact that all 15 seats for the Texas State Board of Education are on the ballot. But most of the attention has been focused on certain contested primary races on the Republican side that will be decided during today’s election. There are currently 11 Republicans and 4 Democrats on the SBOE.
The elected SBOE has become even more important because Texas and Alaska are the only states that have refused to participate in the Obama Administration’s effort to takeover curriculum standards in every state and create “nationalized” standards that will be controlled in Washington, D.C.
When the Texas SBOE adopted its current version of Social Studies & History curriculum standards in 2010 (by a 9-5 vote), the Obama Administration slammed them and criticized the result (through a statement by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan), in which Texas supported required teaching about the U.S. Constitution, the Founding Fathers, religious heritage and American Exceptionalism. See details at www.juststatethefacts.com
In 2009, by an almost unanimous vote of 13-2 the SBOE voted in favor of science standards that requires students to “examine all sides” of scientific theories, including evolution. Almost all of the SBOE members, including 3 Democrats, agreed that it was a bad idea to ban students from asking questions in class and engaging in critical thinking about scientific theories, so the 13-2 vote showed Texas school children are smart enough to do this. Intelligent design or creationism was not up for a vote and any reports that you read that say or suggest this are deliberately trying to mislead you.
Next up for the Texas SBOE will be health curriculum, where Texas decides how sex education issues are taught.
Here are some important races to watch tonight:
Gay Republican vs. Conservatives
In the Dallas area, the current seat held by first term holder George Clayton is red hot. George Clayton’s effort for re-election has drawn 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 has received significant support and endorsements from conservatives in the North Texas area. Gail Spurlock has also received significant support from conservatives and tea party members. Pam Little is also seeking the nomination.
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 has drawn a lot of attention to this Republican primary race with sex education curriculum on the SBOE’s agenda for next year.
Moderate Lobbyist (Ratliff) vs. Conservative (Stevenson)
The re-election bid of the only registered lobbyist on the SBOE, Thomas Ratliff, a moderate Republican is one to watch. 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. Randy Stevenson has received numerous endorsements from conservative and local party leaders. 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.
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, Annette Carlisle, an Amarillo I.S.D. school board member. Mrs. Carlisle has been described as looking to continue Craig’s more moderate approach.
Marty Rowley is the conservative alternative to Carlise as Marty Rowley has received significant support and endorsements from conservatives throughout the state.
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
Jeff Fleece has received significant support and endorsements from conservatives in this race. Tom Maynard has been endorsed by Marsha Farney and other local officials. Rebecca Osborne has received endorsements from local residents and educators.
The Democratic primary SBOE races have not been hardly covered at all by the media for some strange reason, but Michael Soto, who was just elected to the SBOE in 2010, already has a primary challenge on his hands from Marisa Perez.
We’ll report the full details on these races later tonight.
Want to know what’s on the ballot for Texas 2012? Get our Free Voters Guide at www.freevotersguide.com