SBOE Elections: Far Right Targets Bob Craig

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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 in the state and twice the national average.

Craig, a traditional Republican conservative, has been a consensus-seeker on the state board. Sure enough, that has earned him the bitter hostility of far-right extremists who oppose teaching about evolution in science classrooms and have repeatedly attacked curriculum recommendations made by teachers and academic experts (condemned by the far right as “radicals” and “educrats”).

No Democrat filed for the seat. Should Craig lose his bid for re-election to Rives, the state board could move even further to the right.

Let’s walk through the other races.

District 1

Democatic incumbent Rene Nuñez of El Paso faces no opposition in his primary race. He will face Republican Carlos “Charlie” Garza, an assistant principal in El Paso, in the November general election. Garza, who faces no GOP primary opponent, declares on his campaign Web site that he “will continue to stand strong for pro-life and pro-family values” and that “marriage is between one man and one woman.”

District 3

Democratic incumbent Rick Agosto has already announced that he won’t seek re-election to his seat. Agosto has often voted with the state board’s far-right faction. As a result, his replacement could be an important gain for board moderates. Michael Soto, a Trinity University literature professor in San Antonio, is the only candidate seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat. Soto has lined up support from, among others, former state board member Joe Bernal of San Antonio and Charles Butt of HEB.

San Antonio residents Tony Cunningham, who described his occupation on his filing application as “politician,” and Joanie Muenzler, retired, face each other in the Republican primary. We have little information about either candidate at this time. District 3 trends strongly Democratic.

District 4

Incumbent Lawrence Allen Jr., D-Houston faces neither Democratic nor Republican opposition for re-election.

District 5

Incumbent Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, faces a tough fight in his Republican primary against Tim Tuggey, an Austin attorney and past chair of San Antonio’s VIA Metropolitan Transit agency. Tuggey has the backing of a number of San Antonio heavyweights, including businessmen Red McCombs, Bartell Zachry and David Spencer. Mercer has been a reliable vote for the board’s far-right faction.

Four Democrats have filed for the District 5 seat. Rebecca Bell-Metereau is an English and film professor at Texas State University-San Marcos. Robert Bohmfalk is a mental health case manager from Seguin. Daniel Boone of Canyon Lake is a retired career Air Force officer and a professional psychologist who has taught at the university level. Josiah Ingalls is a machine operator in Austin.

District 9

Incumbent Don McLeroy, R-College, faces fellow Republican Thomas Ratliff, a governmental relations consultant from Mount Pleasant and son of the popular former state senator and acting lieutenant governor Bill Ratliff. McLeroy — a staunch creationist — served as board chair for nearly two years until May, when the Texas Senate refused to confirm his renomination to a second term to head the board.

Ratliff has already picked up a number of important endorsements, including support from two powerful Texas House committee chairmen: Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, who heads the Appropriations Committee, and Brian McCall, R-Plano, who chairs Calendars. In November he announced the backing of a list of PTA leaders from vote-rich Collin County as well.

No Democrat filed for the District 9 seat, which stretches from north of Dallas to around Bryan/College Station in East Central Texas.

District 10

Incumbent Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, has announced that she will not seek re-election. Three Republicans will battle for the GOP nomination. Educator Marsha Farney is a prominent Georgetown Republican, but teacher Rebecca Osborne of Austin had been running for the seat even before Dunbar announced that she would step down. Dunbar recruited Brian Russell, an Austin member of the State Republican Executive Committee, as her replacement on the board. As we noted in December (see here and here), Russell shares Dunbar’s hard-right politics. In fact, he has been endorsed by other far-right state board members and leaders of assorted pressure groups.

Education consultant Judy Jennings of Austin is the only Democrat seeking the District 10 seat.

District 12

Longtime incumbent Geraldine “Tincy” Miller, R-Dallas, faces George Clayton of Richardson in the Republican primary. We have little information about Clayton. No Democrat filed to run for the seat.

7 Responses to “SBOE Elections: Far Right Targets Bob Craig”

  1. Coragyps Says:

    Hmm. This may mean that I need to vote in a Republican primary this year. I’d sure like to keep Mr Craig on the board…

  2. Charles Says:

    This is just the “acting out” of the far right’s ideological conclusion that they lost the 2006 and 2008 national elections because Bush, Cheney, DeLay etc. were not “conservative enough.” Translate that as: “We were just plain nuts before, but now we know the way to save America is to go to the straight-jacket and padded room end of the nutty spectrum. The advantage here is that most sensible people will be able to finally and clearly recognize just how far off the deep end these people have gone and reel them in for good in the next election. Yes, I know—wishful thinking.

  3. Charles Says:

    Did I do something wrong?

  4. Rebecca Bell-Metereau Says:

    Mercer has indeed been a reliable vote for the board’s far-right faction, although myself and others are trying to put an end to that polarization. We need to bring the focus of SBOE back to education, which is why I’m running for SBOE District 5.

  5. Cory Says:

    Rives made a run for state representative with four opponents and gained only 9 percent of the vote. He did serious damage in Ector County and I shudder to think what he could do on a bigger stage.

  6. Charles Says:

    I agree with Rebecca.

    Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the big public concern expressed about our public schools (be ye right, left, or center) was a loss of concentration on the so-called 3Rs (reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmatic). I know. Don’t ask me. I just restate them. I don’t explain them. If I recall correctly, there was a general public feeling that our educators had drifted away into a fog of educational theoretics and that our schools had become little more than laboratories to test out the newest wild-eyed approach to math teaching that had been dreamed up in some guy’s dissertation research. Unfortunately, in the 1980s, I had the dubious pleasure of working for one of these theoretical educators in a federal jobs training program and watching how this guy’s developing dissertation was being applied experimentally to an industrial training program.

    We face a similar problem today. Radical right wing idealogues want to inject their own wild-eyed ideas into our public school curriculum. This draws attention away from quality education and back into that fog that we struggled so hard to break our schools out of back in the 1970s and 1980s—only this is fog today is a darker, more threatening, and impenetrable fog. I believe Dr. Metereau has the knowledge and experience necessary to keep Texas schools out of all the various fogs and on a course towards real and lasting educational achievement for our children.

  7. Charles Says:

    Let’s try that again.

    I agree with Dr. Metereau.

    Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the big public concern expressed about our public schools (be ye right, left, or center) was a loss of concentration on the so-called 3Rs (reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmatic). If I recall correctly, there was a general public feeling that our educators had drifted away into a fog of educational theoretics and that our schools had become little more than laboratories to test out the newest wild-eyed approach to math teaching that had been dreamed up in some guy’s dissertation research. Unfortunately, in the 1980s, I had the dubious pleasure of working for one of these theoretical educators in a federal jobs training program and watching how this guy’s developing dissertation was being applied experimentally to an industrial training program. What a mess!!!

    We face a similar problem today. Radical right wing ideologues want to inject their own wild ideas into our public school curriculum. This draws attention away from quality education and back into that fog we struggled so hard to break our schools out of back in the 1970s and 1980s—-only today’s fog is a darker, more threatening, and impenetrable one. I believe Dr. Metereau has the knowledge and experience necessary to keep Texas schools out of the fog and on a course towards real and lasting educational achievement for our children.

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