Archive for the ‘elections’ Category

New Texas Education Board: What’s Ahead?

November 3, 2010

Yesterday’s elections will bring a lot of new faces to the Texas State Board of Education in January. The big question is whether those new faces will bring to the board a new focus on educating children instead of promoting personal and political agendas.

As of now, the state board will still have at least five members aligned in a far-right faction that has dragged nearly every curriculum and textbook issue over the past four years into divisive and unnecessary “culture war” battles. The elections yesterday may add at least one member to that faction on the 15-member board, but that remains to be seen. That would appear to leave nine or ten other board members — Republicans and Democrats — who can work together to put education ahead of politics.

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Check TFN’s Voter Guide — Then VOTE!

November 1, 2010

On Tuesday voters head to the polls in important elections for state and national offices. Races for the Texas State Board of Education are especially important this year. For the past four years, a powerful faction of political and religious extremists on the state board has turned nearly every critical debate on curriculum standards and textbooks into a “culture war” battleground. Those divisive and destructive battles have put politics ahead of the education of millions of Texas schoolchildren.

The Texas Freedom Network Education Fund’s 2010 Voter Guide will help you learn more about the candidates and their positions on critical education issues. Check our Voter Guide here — then get out and vote!

Are You a Christian or Judeo-Christian Voter?

November 1, 2010

The religious right insists on using faith to divide Americans. So with voters headed to the polls on Tuesday, the website for WallBuilders — David Barton’s Texas-based group that opposes separation of church and state — offers two links to voter guides: one for Christians and one for “Judeo-Christians.” (Click the image below to see what we mean.) Both links take readers to a map showing all the states. Interestingly, clicking on “Texas” gets you the same voter guides whether you accessed the map for Christians or “Judeo-Christians.” Maybe this is a “separate but equal” kind of thing.

SBOE Campaign Finance Reports – 8 Days Out

October 28, 2010

The final campaign finance reports before next Tuesday’s election were released earlier this week, detailing funds raised and expended over the period of September 24 – October 23. They suggest we might be in for an eventful closing week in some of the hotly contested SBOE races. Here are a few of the notable findings from these reports:

District 10

  • Democratic candidate Judy Jennings continued her strong fundraising performance, reporting another $32,000 raised during this period. She also reported expenditures in excess of $71,000, mostly on media purchases. The Jennings campaign reported just over $13,000 on hand heading into the final 8 days of the campaign.
  • Jennings’ Republican opponent Marsha Farney also reported more than $58,000 in media expenditures during the period. However, Farney reported minimal funds raised during the period, so she appears to be dipping into her own pockets for these purchases  — just as TFN Insider predicted last month.

District 5

  • Republican incumbent Ken Mercer enters the home stretch with just over $16,000 on hand. Mercer continues to spend comparatively small amounts on his campaign (though he did send a donation of $100 to the far-right group Texas Alliance for Life).
  • Democratic challenger Rebecca Bell-Metereau raised more than $32,000 during the reporting period, and spent almost $62,000 on television spots and other advertising.

Other interesting items

  • Houston homebuilder and major Republican donor Bob Perry took another step into the world of SBOE politics, contributing $5,000 each to the campaigns of Bob Craig (R, Lubbock) and George Clayton (R-Dallas). (Perry previously gave $5,000 each to the Garza and Mercer campaigns.)
  • Republican donor Michael Boylan of Houston jumped into two SBOE contests, giving $5,000 each to Carlos Garza (SBOE Dist. 1) and Ken Mercer.

Links to campaign finance reports for all of the SBOE candidates after the jump.

*Update: The original post stated that the last filing available for Thomas Ratliff, Republican candidate for SBOE 9, was from July. The Texas Ethics Commission has now updated the website, and Ratliff’s 8-day out report is now linked in the table below.

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Politics and the Pulpit

October 25, 2010

Some good news from a new survey from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press: just 5 percent of people who attend religious services at least once or twice a month say that their clergy or other religious groups have urged them to vote in a particular way.

That survey makes it clear that most religious leaders don’t want their houses of worship dragged into partisan political campaigns. But their resistance helps explain, perhaps, why David Barton and other religious-right leaders are working so hard to persuade pastors to politicize their pulpits and their congregations.

Vote!

October 23, 2010

Early voting is already in progress in Texas. This year’s elections, especially for the State Board of Education, could be critical in deciding whether millions of Texas schoolchildren get an education based on facts and sound scholarship or the personal agendas of politicians. The Texas Freedom Network Education Fund’s 2010 Vote Guide is available here.

David Barton Puts Churches at Risk

October 14, 2010

David Barton, head of the Texas-based organization WallBuilders, argues that the Constitution doesn’t protect separation of church and state. That constitutional principle is just a myth, Barton says. And now he’s suggesting that pastors can promote partisan candidates in their churches.

Quoted by OneNewNow, a website (“Your Latest News from a Christian perspective”) operated by the far-right American Family Association, Barton says the Internal Revenue Service apparently has decided not to take action in the cases of pastors who have taken the deliberate step of endorsing partisan candidates from the pulpit. From the OneNewsNow article (which describes Barton as a “constitutional expert” even though his only college degree is in religious education):

Current law prohibits pastors from speaking on politics or endorsing a political candidate, but David Barton of WallBuilders says the IRS’s intimidation of removing a church’s tax exemption status is unconstitutional. Even though some pastors have intentionally crossed the line, Barton does not think the IRS wants to take them to court because it may lose.

“The IRS doesn’t have any interest in doing this because if they do, I believe they know they are going to lose. And if they lose, you have 370,000 pastors in America who suddenly find out that there’s no restriction on them,” Barton suggests.

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New SBOE Campaign Finance Reports

October 7, 2010

According to new campaign finance reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission, two Democratic candidates are ahead of their Republican opponents in the money race in two key Texas State Board of Education elections on Nov. 2. Candidates have filed reports for campaign donations and expenditures for the period from July 1 to September 23. The next filing deadline is eight days before the Nov. 2 election.

The reports show that Democrat Rebecca Bell-Metereau of San Marcos raised nearly five times as much in campaign donations as the Republican incumbent, Ken Mercer of San Antonio, in the contest for the District 5 seat. Bell-Metereau reported raising a little more than $50,000 since July 1. Mercer reported raising just shy of $12,300. Bell-Metereau also had more money going into October, reporting $50,555 in cash on hand compared to Mercer’s $11,967.

Democrat Judy Jennings of Austin also out-raised her Republican opponent, Marsha Farney of Georgetown, in the race for District 10. Jennings reported $53,753 in cash on hand after $47,832 in donations. Farney reported $22,274 in cash on hand after raising nearly $20,700. But Farney dug deep into her own bank account in winning the Republican nomination last spring and could do so again in coming weeks.

Republican challenger Carlos “Charlie” Garza from El Paso has more campaign money than Democratic incumbent Rene Nuñez of El Paso in the race for the District 1 state board seat in West Texas. Garza reported $11,746 in contributions with more than $10,000 in cash on hand. Nuñez reported just $30 in contributions with $529 in cash on hand.

Interestingly, Houston homebuilder Bob Perry gave $5,000 each to the Garza and Mercer campaigns. Over the years Perry (no relation to Gov. Rick Perry) has been one of the state’s biggest donors to political campaigns, most (but not all) of his money going to Republican candidates. Garza also got $100 from Randy Rives, the religious-right candidate who failed to defeat incumbent Bob Craig of Lubbock in the March Republican primary for the District 15 seat.

Following are figures reported on the Texas Ethics Commission website by candidates in contested state board races for the period from July 1 to September 23.

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Check Our 2010 Voter Guide

October 5, 2010

The Texas Freedom Network Education Fund has assembled a nonpartisan voter guide to inform citizens about the positions of candidates on critical issues involving the State Board of Education. All information reported in the guide was provided directly by each candidate or campaign in response to a questionnaire. Read the voter guide here.

Hide from the Voters?

September 3, 2010

That seems to be the advice from the chairman of the Texas Republican Party to GOP candidates for two State Board of Education seats representing large swaths of Central Texas. As we reported last week, the League of Women Voters has invited all candidates for the District 5 and District 10 state board seats to a debate on September 28 in Austin. The debate will be televised by public television stations KLRU in Austin and KLRN in San Antonio. Evan Smith, CEO and editor-in-chief of the Texas Tribune, is set to moderate.

But now Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri has called on the two Republican nominees for those seats, District 5 incumbent Ken Mercer of San Antonio and District 10 nominee Marsha Farney of Georgetown, to skip the debate. Why? Munisteri  claims that the League of Women Voters isn’t really a nonpartisan group because many of its leaders, at least in the Austin area, are Democrats who have voted for and donated to Democratic candidates for public office. 

But Munisteri’s objections are painfully disingenuous.

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LWV Sets Texas SBOE Candidate Debate

August 27, 2010

With the general election campaign moving into high gear after Labor Day, voters will have more opportunities to meet and hear from candidates. League of Women Voters of the Austin Area Education Fund and public television station KLRU in Austin already have one such event scheduled: a debate featuring candidates for the Texas State Board of Education on September 28.

Organizers have invited all candidates on the ballot for the District 5 and District 10 races.

District 5 (which stretches from San Antonio and the Hill Country to southern Travis County and up to Bell County)
Ken Mercer
, Republican (incumbent)
Rebecca Bell-Metereau, Democrat
Mark Loewe, Libertarian

District 10 (which includes northern Travis County, Williamson County and bunch of other counties between Central Texas and Houston)
Marsha Farney, Republican
Judy Jennings, Democrat
Jessica Dreesen, Libertarian

Evan Smith, CEO and editor-in-chief of the Texas Tribune, will moderate the debate, which is set for 7-8 p.m. at the KLRU studios on the University of Texas campus in Austin. A press release from the League of Women Voters group says the public is welcome to attend and should be able to RSVP on the KLRU website about two weeks before debate. According to the League, the debate will be taped and broadcast by KLRU in Austin and KLRN in San Antonio before early voting begins for the Nov. 2 election.

Talking Points

August 20, 2010

From today’s TFN News Clips:

“I do not wear high heels.”

— Ken Buck, the Republican U.S. Senate nominee in Colorado, telling voters why he should win his primary election. The opponent in his primary (which he won) was a woman. Buck’s quote was included in a New York Times editorial noting that the GOP “has nominated so many at the far right of the spectrum . . . that the Republican brand is barely recognizable.”

Stay informed with TFN News Clips, a daily digest of news about politics and the religious right. Subscribe here.

They’re STILL Lying to Voters

August 6, 2010

We just got a look at the new candidate questionnaire from Liberty Institute, the Texas affiliate of the far-right group Focus on the Family. None of the questions are particularly surprising — they hit the list of issues typical for this group (such as abstinence-only/sex education, anti-gay discrimination, Ten Commandments in public schools, private school vouchers). But is it too much to ask that Liberty write questions that are based on, well, the truth? Example:

“Do you support the current law which says the [State Board of Education] may reject a textbook if it believes the book is unsuitable?”

There is no such law.

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New SBOE Campaign Finance Reports

July 19, 2010

July campaign finance reports show that Democratic challengers in two Central Texas State Board of Education races currently have sizable funding advantages over their Republican opponents — at least on paper. But it’s still very early in the general election campaign, and one of those Republican candidates dipped deep into her own bank account to win the GOP nomination for her district seat this past spring. Only four state board elections in November have both Republican and Democratic nominees. Four of five candidates backed by far-right pressure groups lost their Republican nomination battles in the spring.

The following information is for the February 21-June 30, 2010, reporting period. The Democratic and Republican primaries were in March. One Republican nomination was decided in an April runoff. You can find each candidate’s campaign finance report here.

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Most David Barton SBOE Endorsements Flop

April 14, 2010

David Barton might be a sought-after political speaker and right-wing propaganda artist, but his record in supporting candidates for office hasn’t been very good this year. Barton, who argues that our government and laws should be based on fundamentalist Christian principles, sent out a mass e-mail in February endorsing a slate of five religious-right candidates in Texas State Board of Education races. Following yesterday’s Republican runoff elections, only one of Barton’s preferred state board candidates remains standing. (Check out our recap of the March 2 primary elections for the state board here.) Here are the Barton Five, with the names of losing candidates crossed out:

District 3: Joan Muenzler, R-San Antonio
District 5: Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio
District 9: Don McLeroy, R-College Station
District 10: Brian Russell, R-Austin
District 15: Randy Rives, R-Odessa

If Mercer loses to Democrat Rebecca Bell-Metereau in the November general election, the religious right’s slate will be 0-5 for the year. In addition, Barton heartily endorsed his employee at WallBuilders, Rick Green, in yesterday’s GOP runoff for a seat on the Texas Supreme Court. Green lost.