Republican incumbent loses spot on education board
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DALLAS (AP) — The social conservatives on the Texas Board of Education lost a key vote on Tuesday when Republican incumbent Carlos “Charlie” Garza lost to Democrat Martha Dominguez, likely helping move the board in a more moderate direction.
“Two years ago, their dominance started to wane. And this cycle it has further waned,” said Monty Exter, a lobbyist with the Association of Texas Professional Educators.
The board, which is set to adopt new science textbooks next year after drawing attention in the past for ideological battles over evolution, did see a shift more toward the center after the 2010 defeat of social conservative Republican Don McLeroy, the former board chairman who believed the Earth was only 6,000 years old.
“There are a lot of new faces on the State Board of Education and there’s a real opportunity for genuine change from the ideological warfare and the culture wars we’ve seen played out on the board,” said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog of the far right that supports mainstream scientists in the teaching of evolution.
All 15 spots on the board were up for re-election this year because of re-districting. There had been four Democrats and 11 Republicans on the board, with six of those Republicans considered part of the social conservative bloc.
After Tuesday’s elections, the board is made up of five Democrats and 10 Republicans. Of those Republicans, three are social conservative Republican incumbents — Ken Mercer for District 5, David Bradley for District 7 and Barbara Cargill, who currently chairs the board, for District 8.
A few of the right-leaning Republicans have indicated they likely would align at times with the social conservatives, but it will remain to be seen if they will consistently vote with that bloc or not.
An intense fight over how evolution is taught in science 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.
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 her vote will depend on the issue.
Other incumbents retaining their spots were: 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.
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 Geraldine “Tincy” Miller reclaimed her spot after being ousted in the primary two years ago following 26 years on the board. Miller, who has said 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.