Tonight a Bryan radio station will air a debate between Texas State Board of Education incumbent Don McLeroy and his Republican challenger Thomas Ratliff. The debate can be heard live 6-7 p.m. on KEOS radio, 89.1 FM. The program will also be recorded and available to listeners on the KEOS Web site after the debate.

McLeroy, a College Station Republican, was first elected to the District 9 seat in 1998 and is a leader of the board’s far-right faction. Ratliff is from the northeast Texas town of Mount Pleasant. The Republican Primary election is March 2.

UPDATE: State board candidates for District 5 will debate tomorrow morning (Thursday, Feb. 11) in Austin. Video recordings of the debates will be available (click here) shortly afterward. (The same link has information about time and location.) Democrats in the race will square off first, followed by the Republican candidates in a separate debate. District 5 stretches from San Antonio to Austin and Bell County farther north and includes a number of Hill Country counties. The half-day forum includes debates for candidates seeking local state House seats as well as the office of lieutenant governor.… Read More

Randy Rives has a new campaign Web site, but he's got an awful fact-checker. Rives is the former Ector County Independent School District (Odessa) board chair. He's challenging District 15 State Board of Education incumbent Bob Craig in the March 2 Republican Primary -- a race providing the far right's best chance to win another seat on the heavily politicized board that oversees Texas public schools. Two things are clear right away from looking at his Web site: Rives promotes the same kind of faith-bashing and smear tactics already employed by current far-right board members, and his grasp of facts isn't any better. Read More

New finance reports show that fundraising so far for Texas State Board of Education campaigns appears to be significantly higher than in many past elections. But fundraising totals in most races this year are still relatively small considering the size of the sprawling board districts in play. District 5 (Ken Mercer, incumbent), for example, begins in San Antonio and extends out into the Hill Country, up to southern Travis County and then around the west up to Bell County well to the north of Austin. District 9 (Don McLeroy, incumbent) stretches from north of Dallas to around Bryan/College Station. District 10 (Cynthia Dunbar, not running for re-election) stretches from northern Travis County and Williamson County to west of Houston. Moreover, the population for each of the 15 board districts is also more than twice that for the state's more numerous Congressional and state Senate districts. So candidates in these races need a lot of money to get their messages out to voters. San Antonio businessman James Leininger, the religious right's sugar daddy in Texas, spent heavily in the early and mid-1990s to help elect far-right candidates to the board. But with notable exceptions, state board races typically attract just a few thousand…… Read More

by TFN

Less than three weeks into the 2010 election year, it appears that Texas State Board of Education incumbent Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, has the best-financed challenger among contested state board races. Campaign finance reports were due from candidates by January 15. These reports cover the last six months of 2009. The next finance reports are due 30 days before the March 2 primaries. Following are campaign finance data available for Republican and Democratic candidates for the state board. (I) indicates incumbent. Click here for more information about the candidates. (We have tried to include links to campaign Web sites. Please send us links to campaign Web sites we have missed.)…… Read More

With the filing period now closed, it's clear that the religious right is targeting another traditional Republican for defeat on the Texas State Board of Education. District 15 board incumbent Bob Craig, R-Lubbock, will be challenged in a March GOP primary that could further strengthen the far right's control of the board. Craig's primary opponent is Randy Rives (no Web site yet), who served one term on the Ector County Independent School District Board of Trustees in Odessa. In 2005 and 2006, Rives pushed through approval of a deeply flawed high school Bible course, with the board choosing class materials from the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools. A Texas Freedom Network Education Fund report in 2005 revealed that the National Council's sloppy curriculum was riddled with factual errors and promoted an almost exclusively fundamentalist Protestant interpretation of the Bible. After local parents sued, school district officials agreed to stop using the curriculum. Rives also was a key player in having the local school board implement a strict abstinence-only policy on sex education classes in the district. Today Ector County is still struggling to bring down a teen pregnancy rate that is highest…… Read More

Texas Freedom Network

We can't thank Sonja enough for her six years of service with TFN. Just Texas wouldn't be what it is today without her. While Sonja's absence will be deeply felt, we wish her the best of luck as she begins a new chapter with Whole Women's Health! twitter.com/wearejus…