McLeroy Gets GOP Challenger for SBOE Seat

When it rains, it pours. Last week Don McLeroy failed to win Senate confirmation of his nomination as Texas State Board of Education chairman. Now he’s picked up what could be a very stiff challenge to his re-election next year.

Paul Burka at Texas Monthly is reporting that Thomas Ratliff, son of former lieutenant governor Bill Ratliff, will challenge McLeroy in the 2010 Republican primary.

From Ratliff’s press release:

First, I want to thank Dr. McLeroy for his 10 years of service on the SBOE. I just simply have a different approach to working for the parents and schoolchildren of Texas. I am running because I want to work with educators and the other SBOE members to provide leadership for Texas’ neighborhood schools, help mend the fractured relationship with the Texas legislature and restore the public’s confidence in the State Board of Education.

The SBOE has become a distraction to our neighborhood schools and a liability to the Republican Party under the leadership of Dr. McLeroy. I strongly believe we need to take politics out of our kids’ education and the state board should refocus its efforts on the truly important issues facing parents, students and educators.

Ratliff and his wife, Stacy, have two children and live in Mount Pleasant in the northern part of the sprawling SBOE District 9.

Says Burka:

The religious right is very skilled in organizing for State Board of Education races, which is why it has been able to take over the board and stage attacks on the teaching of evolution and other fringe issues. A 2008 challenge to David Bradley, another of the way-out-there members of the SBOE, didn’t come close to unseating him.

Burka doesn’t note that Bradley’s challenger was a Democrat in a heavily Republican district (much as McLeroy’s district). Even so, his point is taken. The religious right became the powerful (and destructive) force it is on the SBOE because its candidates can rely on a highly organized base and plenty of funding.

You can read Burka’s full post here.

UPDATE: Please note that Texas Freedom Network’s tax-exempt status prevents us from publicly endorsing or opposing specific candidates for elected office. We will use this blog to inform readers about issues and events regarding the SBOE elections, however. We ask that readers refrain from calling for the election or defeat of specific candidates in your comments on this blog. That will help protect TFN from any legal problems.

We assume that candidates for office will, at some point, create Web sites — with relevant contact information — about their campaigns. We will be happy to post information on TFN Insider about those Web sites for all candidates, regardless of partisan affiliation.

TFN is permitted to make endorsements to dues-paying members. If you haven’t joined TFN but would like to do so, please click here.

UPDATE II: The Web site for Don McLeroy is www.donmcleroy.com and for Thomas Ratliff is www.thomasratliff.com. Once we have it, we will post a link to Dr. McLeroy’s official campaign Web site (if he puts one up). Thanks to a reader for giving us the heads-up on Ratliff’s site.

18 thoughts on “McLeroy Gets GOP Challenger for SBOE Seat

  1. Hi TFN. Could you please give us the e-mail address of Mr. Ratliff? I would like to send him a kind note of support. Even though I am not a Republican, some extra reading that I have done on the man suggests that he is the Dwight Eisenhower kind of Republican we need to help fix this country of ours and remove it from the hands of the “fruitcake” fringe. Heck, I might even campaign for the man, even though live in another state. It’s time to focus on the 3R’s and quit feeding fruitcake to our school kids and their parents.

    1. Please note that TFN’s tax-exempt status prevents us from publicly endorsing or opposing specific candidates for elected office. We will use this blog to inform readers about issues and events regarding the SBOE elections, however. We ask that readers refrain from calling for the election or defeat of specific candidates in your comments on this blog. That will help protect TFN from any legal problems.

      We assume that candidates for office will, at some point, create Web sites — with relevant contact information — about their campaigns. We will be happy to post information on TFN Insider about those Web sites for all candidates, regardless of partisan affiliation.

      TFN is permitted to make endorsements to dues-paying members. If you haven’t joined TFN but would like to do so, please click here. Thanks!

  2. I met Bill Ratliff 20-odd years ago when Texas was a candidate for the location of the nation’s high-level radioactive waste repository. His thoughtful, rational approach to a highly political, volatile issue impressed me greatly. His was a calming influence during some very tense adversarial meetings. This is exactly what we need at the SBOE. If the son is anything like the father, we will all be winners when he replaces McLeroy.

  3. How about a challenger for Cynthia Dunbar’s seat? She is the representative of my area and I am interested in replacement candidates for her as well.

  4. Sorry TFN.

    I did not mean to imply that you were supporting Mr. Ratliff. You were just reporting information. I know that. I just wanted to get in touch with him. He does not appear to have any contact information out on the net that I could find. I’ll just wait.

    I am afraid to give any money to TFN. I need assurances first. A few years ago, during the Dover and Kansas evolution debacles, I joined the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), which presented itself to me and everyone else as being only interested in proper science teaching in our public schools. Because Eugenie Scott is a fellow anthropologist, I thought it was all on the level. Well, not too long after joining, all of this junk mail from atheist organizations started showing up in my mailbox. I also started getting weird mail from what seemed like weird “New Age” mystic educational services of some sort, at least that is how I would describe this mail for lack of a better term.

    The only rational conclusion that I could come to was that someone at NCSE just assumed that ANYONE who would send money to their organization must JUST NATURALLY BE AN ATHEIST, so they sold their membership list to such organizations, hence my junk mail. I wrote to NCSE, complained, and made it clear that I was not going to join the next year for that reason (which I did not). Miraculaously, after that complaint, I got no more such junk mail.

    Since that time, I have personally been suspicious of the NCSE and its motives—and basically stay away from them. While I support their position on science teaching in the public schools, my own experience makes me very skeptical about whether their organization is really religiously neutral. If they did sell my address and the addresses of others to atheist organizations and some weird organizations, I have to say that it was a MONUMENTALLY STUPID action on the part of someone in that organization and was totally undermining to their integrity. And that is a real shame because they do such good work otherwise.

    Anyway, that was my best understanding of my own personal experience with NCSE, and I would not want that to happen with TFN. If you can assure me that you really are religiously neutral and that you will not sell my address to fringe organizations on the other end of the fruitcake spectrum, I will would be pleased to send you some bucks.

    1. Charles,
      Lists are shared in the nonprofit world in a variety of ways. But our experience with NCSE shows us that it is, indeed, “religiously neutral,” with supporters ranging across the political and social spectrum, including religious folks as well as atheists.

      Texas Freedom Network is much the same. Our supporters include people from a wide variety of faiths as well as atheists. The Texas Faith Network, a project of the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, includes more than 600 clergy from around the state. In addition, both the TFN and TFN Education Fund boards include clergy.

      In any case, we spoke to our Development office. Their response: “We honor requests from donors who ask that their names and contact information not be shared. Donors can just send an e-mail to Rachel@tfn.org or Laura@tfn.org asking that we do not share their name and information.”

      Please feel free to contact either Rachel or Laura with any questions or concerns regarding donations to TFN. Also, whether or not you donate, you may always contact our field/outreach office with questions: Val@tfn.org or Judie@tfn.org. They would be happy to help.

      Thanks for your question!

  5. Excellent news! As I observed in a posting on another blog about this topic –

    “I found it interesting to read that the most populous area in his SBOE District 9 is Colin County. Just north of Dallas, this county includes the large, college-educated, very high-tech city of Plano, so this district may not be as backwards as some believe – against another republican, so no party-line loyalty issues to contend with – this could make for a VERY interesting race!”

    BTW, in the comments posted today in the Texas Monthly BurkaBlog that you linked to in this article (listed as “You can read Burka’s full post here”), some religious extremists are lamenting DOCTOR McLeroy’s recent ouster as a great liberal conspiracy of “lies, misinformation, and religious discrimination” by the democrats, and at least one person there has already launched into a smear campaign against his fellow republican opponent (but a moderate and not into YEC, so must be in league with Satan, right?), complete with links! Perhaps some folks more familiar with all the gruesome details than I am, can provide some more balanced perspective/links to that conversation about the allegedly EXCELLENT services that McLeroy provided for our great state?

  6. To EOAustin: There are several challengers to Cynthia Dunbar. I’m running as a Democrat, and my websites NoNonsenseEducation.com and LorenzoSadun.com should be up in a couple of weeks. Judy Jennings is running as a Democrat, and her website VoteJudyJennings.com is likewise Under Construction. Susan Shelton has said that she plans to run as a Democrat. Rebecca Osborne is running as a Republican, and her website RebeccaOsborne.com is very informative. Several others have hinted that they might run. Find out about us, and help out the candidate(s) of your choice.

  7. Charles,

    I just wanted to state for the record that I am both a member and a donor of NCSE, and the only thing that has arrived in my mailbox is their newsletter. I’m sorry you had to deal with all of that junk mail, although it sounds like you helped to rectify the situation!

  8. This is good news. It sounds as if Mr. Ratliff is the type that would not stoop to the low level of the BLZ’s and engage in religious fratricide, but would bring some normalcy back to the SBOE. We do not know his position on everything, but he seems to be diplomatically saying that the recent conduct has not been in the interest of Texas public school children. I wish him well in his quest to take Don McLeroy out of the picture. I hope to see many Republicans that respect science, the Constitution, and education in general come out and oppose those anti-science BLZ’s currently on the board.

  9. The campaign website for Thomas Ratliff’s campaign is thomasratliff.com. The website for Dr. Don McLeroy is donmcleroy.com

  10. Charles, I have worked closely with many of the people at NCSE, and while I consider myself an agnostic, I was pleasantly surprised to find that several of these people were religious. I guess I myself tend to make the assumption that the reasonable people I know are non-religious, but NCSE proved me wrong. NCSE has a mix of faiths. Your story is suspicious, but I doubt the atheist assumption was NCSE’s.

  11. Charles–

    I too have been a member of the NCSE for many years and not experienced the problems you mention. In fact, they seem to bend over backwards to be even-handed, while focusing on the mission of the organization.

  12. Nothing I’ve read about Mr. Ratliff discuses his positions on science education. Not even his press release. This is a curious omission, considering that it was McLeroy’s opposition to science that caused all of his problems.

    Before getting all worked up over a possible replacement to McLeroy, it would be useful to know whether he’s just another creationist. I can’t find anything on this.

  13. My concern in any local election in any town or county in the nation is the far right Christian-Neofundamentalist STEALTH candidate. This is a standard maneuver in their “dirty tricks” play book. You are led to believe that the candidate is a reasonable and sensible person throughout the campaign, he really does not talk very much about himself and what he believes, the votes come in and he wins, and all of a sudden he strips off his exterior covering to reveal that he is really Jerry Falwell. When we were opposing the election of assorted fruitcakes to the Kansas state school board just a few years back, we and the news media actually succeeded in identifying one of these stealth candidates who was running for the state school board. We nailed his hide to the wall. TFN and all of us here need to be on the lookout for these stealth candidates in Texas schoolboard elections at the state and local levels. You really have to:

    1) Look extremely closely at the poorly known candidates.

    2) Look at who is not saying much about himself and what he believes. He or she will be in the electoral mix but trying to look invisible at the same time.

    3) At public candidate question and answer sessions, ask probing questions such as: “How old is the Earth?” and dipstick the squirm level.

    4) Try to identify the religious affiliation of the candidate. It is hard to hide where you go to church. Familiarize yourself with right wing denominations. Wikipedia has a good list. Beware of the candidate if his church has any of these words anywhere on the sign out front: Baptist, Bible, Separate, Free, Evangelical, fundamental, Calvinistic, premillennial, or Khyper. Please note that some Baptist churches are okay.

    5) Insist that the news media look deeply into the background of each candidate to ferret out stealth candidates. They usually succeed.

    Although school board elections are havens for stealth candidates, city council elections are not immune. Just to run a chill down your spine, one far right wing Christian movement is targeting the takeover of an ENTIRE SOUTHERN TOWN in South Carolina. Take a good look at their website and shudder at their plans:

    http://christianexodus.org/

  14. “This is a curious omission, considering that it was McLeroy’s opposition to science that caused all of his problems.”

    What is curious is this complete distortion of what actually went on in SBOE recently.

    McLeroy is not opposed to ‘science’ – he has supported and voted for significant rigor in science TEKS.
    And what he proposed and what was passed by the SBOE (a) teaches evolution in biology and (b) does NOT teach creationism in science and (c) defended guidelines already in place that properly indicate to students the uncertainties in science: “to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to the strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information.”

    What the SBOE did in the end was adjust the wording a bit, accomodating some concerns but still keeping the correct and valid concept that scientific theories are not infallible nor outside of questioning.
    Darwin would not have approved of censorship:
    http://www.ednews.org/articles/darwin-would-not-have-supported-censorship.html

    Is it dangerous to have this approach? …
    “A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.”
    … check the above article to see who actually has said this.

  15. “This is a standard maneuver in their “dirty tricks” play book. You are led to believe that the candidate is a reasonable and sensible person throughout the campaign, he really does not talk very much about himself and what he believes, the votes come in and he wins, and all of a sudden he strips off his exterior covering to reveal …”

    Kind of like the Obama campaign.