Voters Spank Far Right in SBOE Elections

First, the good news: At least two members of the Texas State Board of Education’s far-right faction won’t be there in 2011. Cynthia “Public Education Is a Tool of Perversion” Dunbar, R-Richmond, got so much heat for her extremism — including outrageous attacks on public schools — that she decided not to run for re-election. Then Don “Somebody’s Got to Stand Up to the Experts” McLeroy, R-College Station, lost his re-election battle to Thomas Ratliff, R-Mountain Pleasant.

Mixed news: Brian Russell, the Austin attorney Dunbar recruited to run for her seat, was forced into a Republican runoff against Marsha Farney of Georgetown.

Bad news: San Antonio incumbent Ken “Dog-Cat” Mercer won his Republican primary race against challenger Tim Tuggey of Austin. That means the board’s far-right faction will still have at least five and as many as six members in 2011 — still be enough to distrupt and distract the board’s attention with “culture war” nonsense.

Even so, yesterday’s elections — including Bob Craig‘s win over a far-right challenger in West Texas — represented a major step forward for supporters of public education in Texas. In addition, the November general election will provide further opportunities — including challenges to Mercer (Rebecca Bell-Metereau) and to the Russell-Farney winner (Judy Jennings) — if voters want to move the board away from the fringes and closer to the mainstream.

TFN just issued the following news release about yesterday’s primary elections:

Voters made it clear on Tuesday that they are tired of seeing the State Board of Education threaten the future of Texas schoolchildren with unnecessary and divisive “culture war” battles over curriculum and textbooks, the president of the Texas Freedom Network said today.

TFN President Kathy Miller noted that three of five far-right social conservatives lost election contests on Tuesday. A fourth was forced into a runoff. One of the defeated candidates was Don McLeroy, whom the state Senate refused to confirm for a second term as board chair in May 2009.

“Don McLeroy was right when he said this election was a referendum on what the board has done over the past four years,” Miller said. “Voters sent a clear message by rejecting the ringleader of the faction that has repeatedly dragged our public schools into the nation’s divisive culture wars over the past four years. Parents want a state board that focuses on educating their kids, not promoting divisive political and personal agendas.”

The Republican primary between McLeroy and challenger Thomas Ratliff of Mount Pleasant had the highest profile of all the state board contests. In addition to McLeroy’s defeat in District 9, Randy Rives of Odessa lost his race against incumbent Bob Craig of Lubbock in the District 15 Republican primary, and Joan Muenzler lost her District 3 GOP primary against fellow San Antonian Tony Cunningham. Both Rives and Muenzler were backed by far-right groups such as WallBuilders and the Texas Pastor Council.

In addition, Austin attorney Brian Russell, who Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, recruited to run for her District 10 seat, was forced into a Republican runoff against Marsha Farney of Georgetown.

District 5 incumbent Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, was the only candidate backed by religious-right groups who won his primary on Tuesday.

The current state board has 10 Republicans and five Democrats. Seven of the Republicans typically vote as a bloc on controversial social issues, such as attacking instruction on evolution science classrooms and emphasizing conservative religious arguments in social studies classrooms. With McLeroy’s defeat, that number will drop to six in 2011.

The board’s work has been bogged down in recent years by curriculum battles in science, social studies and public school Bible classes. Under the current schedule, the board is scheduled to adopt new science and social studies textbooks in 2011 and 2012.

32 thoughts on “Voters Spank Far Right in SBOE Elections

  1. I wish I could be as upbeat about yesterday’s results as y’all sound in this release, but McLeroy lost by only the tiniest of margins. It was hardly a resounding rejection of McLeroy and his “standing up to the experts” philosophy. Also, no one seems to know much about George Clayton – the new guy in District 12. He might wind up siding with the social conservative bloc more often than not.

  2. We should quit calling them the “conservative bloc” and call them the “fundamentalist bloc” instead. That’s accurate, isn’t it?

  3. If you look at the voting in the District 12 race, Clayton received large majorities in Collin and Rockwall counties. Don McLeroy did quite well in Collin County and Rockwall isn’t exactly a liberal bastion! I agree with Phil; the jury is out on Clayton. He could be a sleeper.

  4. I am not as sanguine as TFN on the results of this election in District 10. Russell is Dunbar’s hand-picked successor, and has said that Dunbar did a good job on the board, forging a “compromise” in the language replacing “strengths and weaknesses”. Both he and Farney have stated that evolution should be taught “as a theory”. Apparently, the fact that he home-schools his children did not bother voters much. I don’t see much to celebrate. Certainly doesn’t look like a spanking to me.

  5. Ben is correct; I cringe when “conservative” is used interchangeably with fundises. My definition of c-tives has to do with small central gov’t, fiscal integrity, and a moderate social position. There are times I feel as out of place among the fundy Republicans as Pelosi is as speaker. As far as Clayton is concerned I have seen two of his posts which are not revealing except that apparently he is an educator and that gives him an edge over Tincy(or so he says). All we can say at this point is that we ( those that care) are better off than we were but not by much. There had been alot of press denigating Ken Mercer at least in San Antonio but apparently most of our electorate would rather believe than be informed. Tuggey could not overcome the incumbent, but scientifically dense, Mercer.

  6. Clayton is going to be big trouble. He is indeed a stealth fundie.

    “It’s seems to me you can’t be taught the one [evolution] without the other [creationism],” Clayton said. “It’s an impossibility to talk about evolution without mentioning creationism.”

    Here’s an interview Mr. Clayton did that illustrates quite well that Mr. Clayton is being coy about his intentions. I guess we’ll find out:

  7. Ben and Donald M,
    I think we are being too charitable if we call the biblical literalist zealots on the SBOE fundamentalists. Some of the fundamentals I learned in Sunday School were forgiveness, understanding, compassion, and kindness. These self-rightous and self-serving members have failed to show me where they give an F, or a U, or a … about anyone but themselves or their little cult. Maybe they should be called funnymentalists, because if you revert back and call them “conservative”, I think Barry Goldwater would turn over in his grave so fast that Arizona wouldn’t be smoke-free for a year.

    Is McElroy going to take the vote as a message from God? Are the textbook publishers see the results and not let the little bully boy bully them into messing up the textbooks?

  8. McLeroy’s loss by a razor-thin margin is STILL a really good achievement in my opinion because, traditionally, Far Right supporters always flock en-mass to the primaries and helped their favorite candidates to win every time — until this year. NOW, Texas finally woke up and more of other voters have finally entered the primary election than ever before so they’ve really turned the tide around and cause the major Far Right candidates to finally lose some races!
    I wish Texas had woke up like this sooner, like in 2004 which is the same year Dover, Pennsylvania voters quicked went to elections and pushed new candidates to oust Far Right members in their small city school board because they were angry that the board had approved teaching of “Intelligent Design” in the science classes. But the lawsuit against using this course was progressing and U.S. Middle District Judge John E. Jones III declared teaching Intelligent Design was unconstitutional and ordered the school board to pay one million dollars for legal fees and damages. But I guess Texas was such a big state so it took some years for the public to notice what the state board had been doing. I can now cry “HOORAY!” over defeats for Far Right members like McLeroy and Dunbar.

  9. Here in Collin County a noticeable number of Democrats voted in the Republican primary. I suggest that those Democrats put Ratliff over the top. At the precinct I worked yesterday, a voter said that while he is a lifelong Democrat, he voted in the other primary specifically in order to vote against McLeroy. He practically floated out of the room.

    Regardless of how small the margin was, McLeroy is out. Allow yourselves to savor victory. We need the rest before the next battle.

  10. Trog69.

    Clayton bears watching, but I am not so sure of your evaluation. The answers he gave to the interviewer are about what I would expect from a philosophy major. Best I can recall, I have never met any college philosophy majors with far right Christian Neo-Fundamentalist fruitcake tendencies. I thought it interesting that he would leave the discussion out of science and move it over to social studies or English. If I were going to discuss it at all in a public school, that is where I would do it because you are talking about what various people “believe,” how, and why, making it more of a humanities issue. Science does not deal with those issues. It disappoints me that people like Dawkins, who are on the other end of the belief spectrum, believe that science somehow disproves the existence of God. Science is not in that sort of business and has no God test that I know.

  11. Charles, I’ve never seen Dawkins claim that science disproves god. In fact, I’ve only seen him acknowledge that science can NOT disprove god, just like it can’t disprove the celestial teapot. Here’s an example:

    If he has said that science can disprove god, I would be disappointed. Obviously, as you said, there is no god test–not for Yahweh or Zeus or any of them.

  12. Ben’s right, though I wouldn’t be surprised if Dawkins did say that, as far as the Christian biblical interpretations of scientific principles, science has indeed shown them to be in error.

  13. Charles, in re: Clayton; We’ll find out I guess. Something seems fishy, but it could be the slant given the interview results. It’ll be interesting, and I sure hope you’re right. I’ve been wrong before. Once. It really wasn’t even my fault. Stoopid Conservapedia…I shoulda never listened to that site. How was I to know?

  14. Re Memoirgirl: “Here in Collin County a noticeable number of Democrats voted in the Republican primary. I suggest that those Democrats put Ratliff over the top.”

    You’re undoubtedly correct. Every vote counts, and Dems who crossed over no doubt made the difference in what was an extremely close race. I did the same down here in District 5 (Tuggey v/s Mercer). Didn’t help much. So are you positing that Dems also voted for Clayton when they crossed over? But how do you explain Rockwall?

  15. Help me out here, because I’m not as familiar with the SBOE as I probably should be.

    The Travis County branch of the Republican Liberty Caucus, which is a fiscally conservative but generally libertarian and rationalist organization, endorsed both Brian Russell and Ken Mercer in the SBOE election. I assumed from that endorsement that Mercer and Russell were interested in restoring some of the focus in the textbooks on teaching fundamentals and getting rid of some of the leftist dogma, but that they were not necessarily advocates of creationism or the christian nation fallacy.

    Was I wrong in making this assumption? Do these two candidates who I still have a chance to vote against actually support creationism and the christian nation agenda?


  16. Dave, RE: “Was I wrong in making this assumption? Do these two candidates who I still have a chance to vote against actually support creationism and the christian nation agenda?”

    The short answer is , “Yes.”

  17. Dave, the short answer to your last question is “yes,” and if you’ll sort through other posts on this site (and plenty of other sites), you’ll find evidence of that.

    Would you mind giving an example of what you consider to be “leftist dogma?”

  18. Dave,

    Alas, they do. The Travis County Republican Liberty Caucus must not have done their homework. Ken Mercer is a full-blown creationist who thinks that transitional fossils mean fanciful chimeras like “dog-cats” and “cat-rats.”

    Brian Russell was hand-picked by Cynthia Dunbar and endorsed by the poorly named creationist organization Texans for a Better Science Education. For a summary of Dunbar’s beliefs, check her own words from her book One Nation Under God.

  19. You overstate the bad news in the election, and understate the good. The next SBOE is going to be MUCH better than the current one.

    Don McLeroy (crazy faction) is getting replaced by Tom Ratliffe (sensible)
    Rick Agosto (swing) is getting replaced by Michael Soto (sensible), barring an incredible November upset.
    Cynthia Dunbar (crazy) is getting replaced, hopefully by Judy Jennings (sensible), possibly by Brian Russell (crazy) or Marsha Farney
    Ken Mercer (crazy) faces a serious November challenge from Rebecca Bell-Metereau (sensible)
    Tincy Miller (swing) is getting replaced by George Clayton (unknown)
    None of the six current sensible SBOE members are facing much of a general election challenge.

    The worst-case scenario, if Clayton lines up with the crazies and Jennings and Bell-Metereau lose, is that the sensibles will outnumber the crazies 8-7 on the new SBOE. The best-case scenario is that the sensibles will have an 11-4 majority. (Why do you say that the crazies will have at least 5 votes? I only count Bradley, Leo, Lowe and Cargill.) My own guess is that we’ll wind up with 9 sensibles, 5 crazies, and one swing (Clayton).

    But no matter what happens, it’ll be a LOT better than the current SBOE, with its 7 crazies, two swing voters who often side with the crazies, and only 6 sensibles.

  20. Good analysis, Lorenzo. But after all these years of drought, we’re just still a little afraid to drink from the well of change before the waters have been fully tested. I for one will rest easier after the April run-off up in Round Rock.

  21. Thanks for the substantive response, James.

    Ben, when these candidates were sold to liberty Republicans it was on the basis that they were going to oppose language in textbooks which promoted collectivism and applied anti-capitalist revisionism to the depression era, the revolutionary era and the policies of the Roosevelt administration. It may be that these are actually problems in the history textbooks and that these candidates did plan to push for a more balanced view, but clearly whoever advocated them failed to present their more controversial views at the same time.


  22. Thanks, Dave. Did they provide any examples of the textbook language they didn’t like? I’d love to see actual excerpts, if they provided any. Like most people, I’m against revisionism and I don’t want a history textbook to push any political viewpoint.

  23. Let me add my 2 cents here as well. Now is no time for TFN for any of us to relax and rest on our laurels concerning the SBOE issues. Games are easily lost that way, witness the dawdling in the U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts. With regard to SBOE issues, the pressure on the conservative block has been sustained and intense. It is now time to double, triple, or quadruple that pressure. Full-court press. Pound!!! Pound!!! Pound!!! Relentless. Unceasing. 24/7.

  24. Dave, are you still reading this thread? I’m hoping to hear back from you about examples of that unacceptable language in the textbooks, if the Republican Liberty Caucus provided any. For instance, if there is an anti-capitalist slant, I’d be interested in seeing that language. If the RLC included examples in a newsletter or email or something like that, please post it here so we can all be aware of it.

    So many accusations get thrown around about this sort of thing that I like to see the claims supported with evidence. For instance, TFN supports their claims well here on this site. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t be inclined to take their word as truth.


  25. Dave and Ben.

    The thing you guys call “collectivism” has been around and common (even overwhelmingly manifest) since the time of prehistoric hunter-gatherer bands tens of 1000s of year ago. People just had another name for it back then. That name was “community.” There is nothing socialistic about “community.” Community is just what human beings have done, continue to do, and will always do until some evolutionary factor moves us away from it. Why is that? Community (doing things together, helping your neighbors, collectivism, whatever you want to call it) is a powerful and highly successful adaptive mechanism. One wolf cannot bring down a buffalo. Six wolves working together can, and everyone eats hearty afterwards. This demonization of “community” did not exist until a bunch of John Birch Society bozoes came on the scene in the middle 20th century. Such demonization makes about as much since as demonizing sweat, skin color, hair growith, and puberty. Oh-h-h-h-h-h-h-h!!! That’s right. The same people demonized those too.

    See what I mean?

  26. I don’t know, Ben. Too much of this information came to me second hand. If I knew what textbooks were being considered I could do some research myself, but the sources I’ve found online which are critical of the textbooks don’t provide sufficient excerpts to really tell how bad they are, plus they’re hardly neutral.

    I’ll keep looking.


  27. Charles, I didn’t use the word “collectivism” myself, and I agree with you about the importance of community.

  28. Sorry Ben. I’ll butt out.

    With the McLeroy/Ratliff election so very close in vote totals , I cannot help but think that TFN’s public discussions on the education issues of the day, and the public’s digestion of those discussions, led at least indirectly to Don McLeroy’s failure in the Republican Primary election. Don has to be pretty angry at TFN right now.

    Now that Don McLeroy is out of the picture on the education scene and free and clear to say whatever he wants without fear of political ramifications, I think now would be a good time for Don to sit down and write out a long and detailed letter to TFN. This statement would be a full, complete, and totally honest fleshing out of Don’s ideas on religion, public schools, evolution, social studies, etc., and it would also be a wonderful opportunity to publicly kick sand in TFN’s face. It would also be a great chance for Don to warn Texans about the extreme danger TFN poses to all that is holy and decent in the state of Texas. After all, Don has got to be pretty angry right now, and that much pent up anger needs some sort of socially acceptable release apart from flying an airplane into a building.

    Many psychotherapists say that pouring one’s beliefs, angers, anxieties, concerns, and so forth out onto paper in a coherent and thoughtful manner is a good way to achieve an inner release from anger and other personal demons. There is only one stipulation though. The person doing it has let it all hang out—meaning to be totally honest, hold nothing back, and not care what anyone else thinks about it. Texas history might one day look back into the past to our time and call it the “McLeroy Manifesto.”

  29. Personally I think a lot of the commenters here are simply frustraited and lost souls. I am not of any religious right counter movement card holder, but simply a believer in God and the Acts 2:38 concept. Texas as well as the United States itself was founded upon (and by) God fearing people such as Ben Franklin, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson. Whatever the elections said could amount to this saying, “Listen to the people Democrats, liberals, and Obama” – it’s that simple. If not your will lose your job as many of us have because of your lackj of common sense and foolish fiscal decisions. Washington is in a world all it’s own today. This election was a reality check. Liberal judges with Homosexual agendas were cast out. Gays already have the same rights as straights to marry someone of another sexual persuasion. And any culture that has embraced anything but a man-woman solution has in past history became weakened and left in the dust (as we will in like manner should we accept obama’s biasied decisions to effect our culture and military in his favoring of gays, who make up less than 3% of the total population and are discriminated against by any means as a whole today, but instead enjoy greater rights than many non-homosexuals even now). The great thing about america is we all can agree to agree or agree to disagree because of the military and the sacrifice of millions of men and women who have purchased this right often by their own blood. These veterans and the present military should never be subject to adverse policies of a foolish Obamatic and favoristic decision to push HIS gay agenda upon them (without their full and entire approval). He cares not for our country as a Kenyan (American? – that is still in question) but for his own communistic-socialistic agenda of imposing his leftists views upon all. But you what, he’s been rejected by Americans because we won’t get fooled again by his false promises and outright lies. That’s what happened yesterday. He and his agenda just received a f grade. Remember that and learn that lesson well. For only those who stay in the mid stream or middle views will prosper here. We are not europe!