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6 keep seats on state board of education

Nov. 7, 2012 at 5:07 a.m.


DALLAS (AP) - Six incumbents on the Texas Board of Education will retain their spots on the panel that has drawn attention in years past for ideological battles including over evolution.

Tuesday's results will play a large role in how much influence social conservatives will have on the board that is set next year to adopt new science textbooks. In years past, social conservatives have tried to draw doubts about the theory of evolution and elevate conservative figures in history lessons.

All 15 spots on the board are up for re-election because of re-districting. There are currently four Democrats and 11 Republicans on the board, with six of those Republicans considered part of the social conservative bloc.

The incumbents who kept their spots on Tuesday were: social conservative Republican Barbara Cargill, who currently chairs the board, for District 8; social conservative Republican David Bradley for District 7; Democrat Lawrence Allen Jr. for District 4; Democrat Mavis B. Knight for District 13; Patricia "Pat" Hardy, a Republican who has been a swing vote, for District 11; and moderate Republican Thomas Ratliff for District 9.

In other races involving incumbents Tuesday, social conservative Republican Carlos "Charlie" Garza faces a challenge from Democrat Martha Dominguez for his District 1 seat while social conservative Republican Ken Mercer faces a challenge from Democrat Rebecca Bell-Metereau.

Also Tuesday, Democrat Marisa Perez defeated social conservative Republican David Williams for the District 3 spot. Perez got a surprise win in the primary when she defeated Democrat incumbent Michael Soto.

Republican Sue Melton faced no major party opposition to win the District 14 spot after defeating social conservative incumbent Gail Lowe in the primary.

Republican Marty Rowley defeated Democrat Steven Schafersman for the District 15 spot vacated by Republican Bob Craig. Rowley, who says on his website he supports letting students "look at all sides of scientific theories, including evolution, intelligent design and global warming," has said that although he's conservative, he won't necessarily always vote with that bloc.

Republican Donna Bahorich beat Democrat Traci Jensen for the District 6 spot formerly held by social conservative Republican Terri Leo, who didn't seek re-election. Bahorich has said she's a social conservative but says her vote will depend on the issue.

Miller, who has said she'll vote she'll vote her "conscience" and "conservative beliefs," defeated Democrat Lois Parrott to reclaim her District 12 spot.

The Texas Board of Education's responsibilities including establishing the state's public school curriculum, approving textbooks and managing the state's permanent school fund. Because all seats are up for election this year, newly elected members will draw numbers at the first meeting and eight will get four-year terms and seven will get two-year terms. After that, they'll have four-year terms.

An intense fight over how evolution is taught in science curriculum put a national spotlight on the board in 2009. The board ultimately decided that Texas schools would no longer have to teach the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution. Teachers would still be encouraged to consider "all sides" of scientific theories.

The board did see a shift more toward the center after the defeat in 2010 of social conservative Republican Don McLeroy, the former board chairman who believed the Earth was only 6,000 years old and that the Christian influences of the founding fathers are important to studying American history.

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