Archive for the ‘Thomas Ratliff’ Category

SBOE Campaign Finance Reports

January 18, 2012

All Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) seats are up for election this year, but so far there’s not a lot of money flowing into those campaigns. Nearly all SBOE candidates have now filed their July 1, 2011-December 31, 2011, campaign finance reports with the Texas Ethics Commission.

Some non-surprises:

  • Geraldine “Tincy” Miller, R-Dallas, is again self-funding her campaign, this time in an effort to retake the District 12 seat she lost to George Clayton, R-Richardson, in 2010. So far Miller has spent about $40,000 of her own money.
  • Former SBOE member Don McLeroy, R-College Station, is spreading around a little cash (some left over from his losing race against Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, in 2010) among far-right board incumbents Charlie Garza, R-El Paso, of District 1 ($500), Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, of District 5 ($500), and Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas, of District 14 ($1,801.60). He has also contributed $500 to Randy Stevenson, R-Tyler, who is trying to unseat Ratliff in District 9 and return to the board he left after 1998.
  • Neal Frey, head of the far-right censorship outfit Educational Research Analysts (founded by the late Mel and Norma Gabler of Longview in East Texas), has given $1,000 to Garza, $500 to Mercer, $1,000 to Stevenson, $500 to current board chair Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands (District 6), and $500 to Terri Leo, R-Spring, before the she decided not to run for re-election last fall.

Among the races that are attracting the most money (although totals are relatively modest compared to races for other elections in the state):

District 5: Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio ($15,611.75 in contributions, including $10,ooo from just one donor) vs. Steve Salyer, R-San Antonio ($1,150.00 in contributions plus a $5,000 from himself)

District 6: Donna Bahorich, R-Houston ($325 in contributions plus a $50,000 loan from herself to her campaign); no Republican challenger. None of the three Democrats (Tracy Jensen, Patty Quintana-Nisson and David Scott, all of Houston) has raised more than $1,600 yet.

District 8: Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands ($38,586.84 in contributions, $18,710.93 in expenditures, $25,626.25 in cash on hand) has raised a healthy chunk of change, but she also spent more than $12,000 (at least) on a fundraising event at a fancy country club in The Woodlands. Her Republican opponent, Linda Ellis of The Woodlands, has spent $7,019.40 so far.

District 9: Incumbent Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, has raised $17,413.15 in his race against challenger Randy Stevenson, R-Tyler, who has raised $5,225, including $1,100 from his own pocket.

District 12: Incumbent George Clayton, R-Richardson, ($3,921.42 in expenditures) is trying to fend off challenges from three other Republicans: “Tincy” Miller ($41,015.65 in expenditures, mostly her own money); Pam Little, R-Fairview ($8,324 in expenditures and loans from herself of $21,500); and Gail Spulock, R-Richardson (no report posted yet).

District 15: Incumbent Bob Craig, R-Lubbock, is not seeking election. Marty Rowley, R-Amarillo ($5,614.59 in expenditures and $10,000 in loans, combined, from himself and his wife) is running against Anette Carlisle, R-Amarillio, ($23,998.19 in expenditures) in the Republican primary. Steven Schafersman, D-Midland, is the only Democrat running.

Check our SBOE Election Watch page here for a list of candidates and other info.


SBOE Candidate: Thomas Ratliff

December 7, 2011

Because of redistricting, all 15 seats on the Texas State Board of Education will be up for grabs in the November 2012 elections. The results of those elections will determine whether the religious right’s corrosive influence over public education will weaken or grow as the board considers what the next generation of public school students in Texas will learn about sex education, social studies, science and other subjects. We plan to publish on TFN Insider candidate announcements for a seat on the SBOE. We will publish announcements in no particular order, and their publication does not constitute any sort of endorsement by TFN. We will redact requests for contributions or mentions of fundraising events from the announcements, but we will provide links to the candidates’ websites (if available).

Thomas Ratliff, District 9, R-Mt. Pleasant

District 9 SBOE member Thomas Ratliff announced Dec. 6 that he would seek re-election. Ratliff was first elected in 2010 when he defeated Don McLeroy in the Republican primary and then ran unopposed in the general election. His website can be found here.

After talking with family, friends, teachers and taxpayers across the district, it is my honor to announce that I will seek re-election to the State Board of Education.

During my first year in office, I have maintained my dedication to take the partisan politics out of the State Board of Education and to work with both sides of the aisle to do what is best for the schoolchildren in Northeast Texas. While we aren’t there yet, I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish so far. I am also proud to be supported by Texas professional teacher associations that together represent over 15,000 teachers in my district. They know that I am staying focused on education, not politics, and doing what’s best for our students.

I have also worked extremely hard to bring an unprecedented level of cooperation and communication between Northeast Texas and their representative on the State Board of Education. In fact, a school board member told me I was the first member of the SBOE to come talk to his school board in his 11 years on his local school board.

As with my first election, I promise to run a positive campaign that is focused on the challenges facing our schools and what the State Board of Education can do to address those challenges. I will not run a negative race. The people of East Texas deserve better. I will continue to talk about my position on the issues in a straightforward manner and give the voters a clear understanding of their choice in this election. I will also continue to make myself available to anyone interested in public education in Texas. My email is and I would be happy to hear from you.


How Nasty Could Texas SBOE Elections Get?

November 29, 2011

If history is any judge, next year’s Texas State Board of Education elections could get very nasty. The image at left (click to enlarge) comes from a campaign flyer supporting Randy Stevenson in his successful election race for the board in 1994:

“Homosexuality. Lesbian Adoption. Condom Usage. Do you want your children learning about this in school? The liberals on the State Board of Education do.”

Almost identical flyers supported other religious-right candidates the same year, with the names of candidates swapped out on each one.

Stevenson, a Tyler resident who left the board after the 1998 elections, is challenging board incumbent Thomas Ratliff of Mount Pleasant in the Republican primary in March of next year. Ratliff defeated religious-right board member Don McLeroy in the 2010 GOP primary.

The 1994 elections that first brought Stevenson to the board came as board members debated proposed new high school health textbooks. Religious-righters demanded that the board reject textbooks they said promoted contraception and homosexuality and included other information they found objectionable. They even called for removing line-drawings of self-exams for testicular and breast cancer (too suggestive) and for replacing a photo of a woman carrying a briefcase with one showing a woman baking a cake (traditional gender role).

San Antonio businessman James Leininger, the religious right’s sugar daddy in Texas, poured boatloads of money into the effort to defeat board incumbents who didn’t bow to those demands. Much of the money funded deceitful and incendiary attacks like those on the flyer above. It was “horrible garbage,” one of the targeted (and defeated) incumbents told the Houston Press. It was also, the Press reported, “a bundle of lies and distortions”:

To cite one prominent example, the brochure cited the picture of the two men kissing as being found in an informational pamphlet published by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and also available through AIDS Services of Austin. And the mailing strongly suggested that AIDS Service of Austin was listed as a reference source in health textbooks used by Texas students. But the fact is that none of the four health textbooks that were adopted by the board earlier this year contained mention of any AIDS service organizations or hot lines, although the teachers’ manuals for a couple of the textbooks included a recommended student activity that involved contacting unspecified local AIDS organizations in their communities.

Will Stevenson use the same political trash in his bid to return to the State Board of Education? Will other candidates do so as religious-right pressure groups try to expand their corrosive influence over the education of millions of kids in Texas public schools? We’re already seeing a whisper campaign that has left one Republican board incumbent feeling compelled to acknowledge that he is gay. We fear things will only get worse.

TFN wasn’t around in 1994. But next year we will work tirelessly to expose these kinds of smear campaigns. We will shine a bright light on the extremists who use these rancid campaign tactics to push their divisive and destructive political agendas into our kids’ classrooms.

You can read the full flyer from Stevenson’s 1994 campaign here.

Contempt for Voters

August 20, 2011

So what’s with the dishonest campaign to remove from office a State Board of Education member who had the gall to challenge — successfully — the re-election of a prominent member of the state board’s far-right faction in 2010? Just another example of the far right’s contempt for Texas voters.

We’re talking about Thomas Ratliff, a Republican from Mount Pleasant who defeated Don “Somebody’s Gotta Stand Up to Experts” McLeroy in last year’s GOP primary for the District 9 state board seat. McLeroy, a College Station dentist and self-identified “young Earth creationist,” had served as Gov. Rick Perry’s state board chairman from 2007 to 2009 and led efforts to dumb down instruction on evolution in public school science classes.

Ratliff’s victory over McLeroy infuriated other far-right board members and their supporters. But because voters clearly preferred a common-sense approach to education over McLeroy’s repeated efforts to promote his own personal beliefs in public schools, Ratliff’s critics have adopted a legal strategy to get him thrown off the board. They claim Texas law forbids Ratliff from serving on the board because he is a registered lobbyist. But that prohibition applies only to lobbyists who are paid to work on business related to the board’s operations. Ratliff has pointed out repeatedly that he does not.

In January, to settle the matter, Ratliff asked then-Chairwoman Gail Lowe — a member of the state board’s far-right faction — to seek an opinion from the Texas attorney general on his eligibility to serve on the board. Ratliff also asked the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office to determine whether he was breaking the law.

Last week Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office released an official opinion on the matter. That followed a finding from the Public Integrity Unit last March. Neither document says what the board’s far-right members wanted to hear.


Barbara Cargill: Some Things Never Change

July 8, 2011

UPDATE: Apparently, someone was embarrassed that we were highlighting Barbara Cargill’s comments at a Texas Eagle Forum event last week. YouTube videos of those comments have now been made private. No matter. We already have those comments and the videos. We’ll have more from Cargill’s talk — this time her troubling comments about the coming of adoption of science instructional materials — shortly.

NEWER UPDATE: The video linked in the post is available again.


Well, this sure didn’t take long. Last Tuesday the San Antonio Express-News quoted newly appointed Texas State Board of Education Chairwoman Barbara Cargill as saying that she would “facilitate the meetings with a lot of character and a listening ear because we all represent our various districts, so we certainly want to hear from every board member on the issues.” Then just two days later she questioned the faith and politics of fellow board members whose views are different from her own.

Speaking Thursday night at a Texas Eagle Forum event in Conroe, this is how Cargill, R-The Woodlands, described the faction of board members with whom she votes in lockstep:

“Right now there are six true conservative Christians on the board.”

Say what? That certainly must be news to four other Republicans on the board (Marsha Farney, R-Georgetown; Pat Hardy, R-Fort Worth; Bob Craig, R-Lubbock; and Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant), who are pretty darn conservative as well as Christians (and that’s not even considering the board’s Democrats who are also Christians).

Cargill is already following in the footsteps of former board chair Don McLeroy, who on more than one occasion essentially described the divisions on the state board as between “Christian conservatives” and everyone else. Like when McLeroy said this:

“Conservatives on our board are the only ones—the Christian conservatives—that are able to sit there and to think for themselves and say, well, wait. Is this really good policy?”

Cue the complaints that we’re somehow attacking Cargill’s faith. Of course, we’re not. We’re simply marveling that she and her allies on the board seem so clueless about how offensive it sounds when they question the faith (never mind the politics) of their own colleagues.

We’ll have more remarkable comments from Cargill’s talk in the coming days.

Travis DA: No Problem with Ratliff on SBOE

March 14, 2011

Far-right members of the Texas State Board of Education are steamed that Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, defeated their ally Don McLeroy, R-College Station, in the March Republican primary last year. Since at least last November, they have been insisting that Ratliff’s status as a registered lobbyist makes him ineligible to serve on the board under state law. Things got particularly nasty at the January board meeting, with far-right members like Terri Leo, R-Spring, openly criticizing Ratliff’s presence on the board as a violation of the law. Far-right pressure groups joined in, with one asking the state’s attorney general to investigate.

Ratliff replied by requesting that board chairwoman Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas, ask for a formal opinion on the matter from state Attorney General Greg Abbott. He also asked the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office to look into the matter. Abbott has yet to issue his opinion, but the Travis County DA’s office just did.

In a letter released today, Susan H. Oswalt of the Public Integrity Unit explains that her office has reviewed the relevant statute, examined all of the available evidence and discussed the matter with the chairs of the House and Senate education committees. She also points out that Ratliff has disclosed his clients, amended his contracts to make clear that he will not represent them before the state board and has recused himself from voting on measures that might give even the appearance of a conflict of interest for him. In her letter, Oswalt writes that she found nothing wrong:

“Based upon all the above facts, we have determined that it does not appear that any crime has been committed over which our office would have jurisdiction and venue. We are formally closing our review of this matter with no further action to be taken by this office.”

Oswalt also notes that Ratliff isn’t the first lobbyist to serve on the board anyway. But the state board’s far-right members will almost certainly continue to complain about Ratliff’s presence on the board — at least until Abbott issues his formal opinion. In fact, considering their past contempt for opinions from the AG’s office, we expect they’ll keep complaining regardless. For them, the State Board of Education is all about playing politics, not educating Texas kids.

Here’s the letter from Oswalt.