That seems to be the advice from the chairman of the Texas Republican Party to GOP candidates for two State Board of Education seats representing large swaths of Central Texas. As we reported last week, the League of Women Voters has invited all candidates for the District 5 and District 10 state board seats to a debate on September 28 in Austin. The debate will be televised by public television stations KLRU in Austin and KLRN in San Antonio. Evan Smith, CEO and editor-in-chief of the Texas Tribune, is set to moderate.
But now Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri has called on the two Republican nominees for those seats, District 5 incumbent Ken Mercer of San Antonio and District 10 nominee Marsha Farney of Georgetown, to skip the debate. Why? Munisteri claims that the League of Women Voters isn’t really a nonpartisan group because many of its leaders, at least in the Austin area, are Democrats who have voted for and donated to Democratic candidates for public office.
But Munisteri’s objections are painfully disingenuous.
Never mind that the League of Women Voters has a long history and reputation as a nonpartisan organization. More pointedly, does Munisteri believe that Smith, a respected journalist who spent nearly 18 years at Texas Monthly and served as that magazine’s president and editor-in-chief before leaving to run the Texas Tribune, is a partisan hack who will slant his questions to hurt GOP candidates? Smith will serve as moderator of the debate, not League officers.
Moreover, if Munisteri believes that the voting habits of a nonpartisan organization’s officers disqualify that organization as capable of putting on a fair and nonpartisan event for voters, will he level the same criticism of far-right pressure groups? Will Munisteri acknowledge, for example, that so-called “nonpartisan” voter guides and candidate events sponsored and promoted by groups like Liberty Institute, Texas Eagle Forum and WallBuilders — all headed by hard-right Republican activists — are unfair to all candidates?
Of course he won’t. That’s because this isn’t about Republican candidates for the State Board of Education being unable to get a fair shake at a debate. It seems far more to be a question of hiding candidates from voters.
The Texas Freedom Network has spent the last 15 years exposing ongoing efforts by extremists on the State Board of Education to censor textbooks and rewrite curriculum standards to promote personal and political agendas. Voters have a right to know where candidates seeking seats on that board stand on efforts to politicize the education of Texas schoolchildren. We encourage both Mercer and Farney — as well as all other state board candidates — to reject Munisteri’s baseless attacks on the League of Women Voters and to participate in the September 28 debate.
Here are the candidates for the District 5 and District 10 state board seats:
District 5 (which stretches from San Antonio and the Hill Country to southern Travis County and up to Bell County)
Ken Mercer, Republican (incumbent)
Rebecca Bell-Metereau, Democrat
Mark Loewe, Libertarian
District 10 (which includes northern Travis County, Williamson County and bunch of other counties between Central Texas and Houston)
Marsha Farney, Republican
Judy Jennings, Democrat
Jessica Dreesen, Libertarian