Are we about to see a repeat of the hateful campaign tactics religious-righters used to win election to the Texas State Board of Education in the 1990s? Back then hundreds of thousands of dollars from San Antonio businessman James Leininger funded coordinated campaigns that claimed Democratic board incumbents supported the “radical homosexual agenda” and wanted to teach students about gay sex and “lesbian adoption.” One especially incendiary and misleading campaign mailer used by multiple far-right candidates featured a photo of two shirtless men (one black, one white) kissing passionately. “Liberals” on the state board, the mailer charged, wanted students to have access to a “how-to guide on homosexuality and homosexual sex.” Unfortunately, those tactics helped some far-right candidates win their races.
Now we’re seeing signs that the 2012 State Board of Education elections could feature the same kind of hateful political trash. Last week, in fact, a growing whisper campaign led Republican incumbent board member George Clayton of Richardson (in the Dallas area) to send out a press release acknowledging that he is gay. The release reads:
“It has come to my attention that one of my opponents in my bid for reelection to the State Board of Education and certain member(s) of the Golden Corridor Republican Women’s Club are questioning my sexual orientation. So as to avoid the tyranny of misinformation and innuendo in this political race, I wish to say that I, in fact, do have a male partner who lives with me in my home in Richardson, Texas. I hope this frank announcement satisfies Tincy Miller and the ladies associate with the Golden Corridor organization. All of us can now move on with discussions concerning education instead of being overly occupied with my personal life.”
Reporters have asked Geraldine “Tincy” Miller if she has played a role in the whisper campaign about Clayton’s sexual orientation. The Dallas Republican says she hasn’t. Clayton defeated Miller, a longtime state board incumbent, in the 2010 GOP primary, and she appears to be preparing a run to win back her seat next year.
On the other hand, Golden Corridor Republican Women (GCRW), which includes members from Dallas, Denton and Collin counties, does seem to be part of the no-longer-a-whisper campaign. (GCRW’s logo includes a flag, elephant and Christian cross set over an outline of Texas.) Clayton included with his press release a copy of what he said was a Nov. 1 email in which GCRW President Susan Fletcher reports on an interview with Miller. The interview focuses largely on “culture war” issues such as evolution, Sharia law and abstinence-only sex education. At the bottom of her email, however, Fletcher writes about questions she has for Clayton, including:
“What are his living arrangements in Richardson? With whom does he live? It’s not appropriate to comment further — but this needs to be investigated.”