Campaign finance reports due 30 days before the November 6 election make it clear that, once again, Texas State Board of Education elections are attracting little money. The 15-member board adopts curriculum standards and textbooks for Texas public schools, but it gets precious little attention during election seasons.
We have listed (below) campaign finance information reported by Republican and Democratic candidates in districts where both major parties have candidates on the November ballot. (Most Libertarian and Green candidates on the November ballot for state board races either have filed no reports or reported no contributions or expenditures. A full list of candidates is available at www.tfn.org/sboe2012.) Rebecca Bell-Metereau, D-San Marcos, has raised about $33,000 in the period from late July to the end of September. Marty Rowley, R-Amarillo, is the only other candidate to have raised more than $10,000 during the same period. Geraldine “Tincy” Miller, R-Dallas, reported nearly $120,000 in expenditures for the period, but nearly all of that came out of her own purse.
Note that each state board district has more than twice the population of a state Senate or U.S. House district. How far will the less than $4,000 raised by Republican Laurie Turner go in District 2, which sprawls from the Rio Grande Valley to north of her hometown of Corpus Christi? Not very. The same is true of the $9,400 her Democratic opponent, Ruben Cortez of Brownsville, raised in the same period. Yet partisan voting patterns from 2008 and 2010 suggest that District 2 should be the most competitive state board race in the state. Many candidates in other state board districts reported even less in contributions.
For the first time in a decade, all 15 State Board of Education seats are up for election. But it’s not unlikely that two candidates in a reasonably competitive congressional race (or maybe even a state House race) could raise and spend more money than all of the general election candidates for state board seats combined (excepting Tincy Miller’s largely self-funded campaign and the $50,000 Donna Bahorich has loaned to her own).
Should anyone really wonder, then, how anti-public education and anti-science extremists succeeded in gaining so much power on the state board over the past two decades? Some managed to get elected because a single donor — James Leininger — flooded their otherwise little-noticed races with tens of thousands of dollars in the 1990s and early 2000s. But in the last decade, many simply coasted to victory in gerrymandered districts where voters knew little more than the “R” or “D” that followed a candidate’s name on the ballot. Most voters had never met the candidates, much less heard them speak out on education issues. That almost certainly will be the case again in most state board races this November.
And that’s how Texas decides who has the power to determine what nearly 5 million students learn in their public school classrooms.
Incumbents and candidates of the party that currently controls the seat are listed first in each district race below.
Charlie Garza, R-El Paso (incumbent): $5,662 in contributions, $3,058 in expenditures, $2,583 in cash on hand
Martha Dominguez, D-El Paso: $346 in contributions, $1,859 in expenditures, no cash on hand
Ruben Cortez, D-Brownsville: $9,400 in contributions, $9,290 in expenditures, $1,015 in cash on hand
Laurie Turner, R-Corpus Christi: $3,995 in contributions, $4,237 in expenditures, no cash on hand
Marisa Perez, D- San Antonio: $100 in contributions, $877 in expenditures, $1,279 in cash on hand
David Williams, R-San Antonio: No contributions, expenditures or cash on hand
Lawrence Allen, D-Fresno (incumbent): Report unavailable
Dorothy Olmos, R-Houston: Report unavailable
Ken Mercer, R- San Antonio (incumbent): $3,540 in contributions, $6,284 in expenditures, $9,506 in cash on hand
Rebecca Bell-Metereau, D- San Marcos: $33,152 in contributions, $18,793 in expenditures, $6,989 in cash on hand
Donna Bahorich, R-Houston: $6,580 in contributions, $30,303 in expenditures, $20,444 in cash on hand, $50,000 in outsanding loans
Traci Jensen, D-Houston: $7,825 in contributions, $2,705 in expenditures, $6,896 in cash on hand
Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands (incumbent): $2,100 in contributions, $1,075 in expenditures, $3,773 in cash on hand
Dexter Smith, D-Friendswood: $2,785 in contributions, $2,646 in expenditures, $138 in cash on hand
Tom Maynard, R-Florence: $4,550 in contributions, $7,284 in expenditures, $1,790 in cash on hand
Judy Jennings, D-Austin: $1,737 in contributions, $3,007 in expenditures, $1,062 in cash on hand
Geraldine “Tincy” Miller, R-Dallas: $1,315 in contributions, $118,144 in expenditures, $2,334 in cash on hand
Lois Parrott, D-Dallas: $6,092 in contributions, $2,363 in contributions, $3,729 in cash on hand
Mavis Knight, D-Dallas (incumbent): $0 in contributions, $0 in expenditures, $475 in cash on hand
S.T. Russell, R-Dallas: $250 in contributions, $521 in expenditures, $ 279 in cash on hand, $2,238 in outstanding loans
Marty Rowley, R-Amarillo: $12,260 in contributions, $5,804 in expenditures, $9,579 in cash on hand, and $10,000 in outstanding loans
Steven Schafersman, D-Midland: $985 in contributions, $1,526 in expenditures, $928 in cash on hand