On Super Tuesday, a grab bag of candidates faced off in primary races across Texas to clinch their party’s nominations for State Board of Education (SBOE) slots. Some ran unopposed while others won outright. A few races will go onto the May 24 run-off election.
All of these candidates look forward to the hope of winning in November and representing the best interests of the state’s 5.2 million school children.
The GOP race for the 31-county District 9 presented a three-way primary in which one of the contenders, retired school teacher Mary Lou Bruner, (R-Mineola), 68, found herself thrust into the national spotlight after posting over-the-top comments on Facebook, including her personal take on alleged Jurassic occupants of Noah’s Ark and claims about President Obama’s sexual proclivities in his twenties.
The District 9 seat has been held by the SBOE’s sometimes outspoken vice chair Thomas Ratliff (R-Mt. Pleasant) since 2010. He decided not to run for re-election this year. The district includes the counties of Anderson, Angelina, Bowie, Camp, Cass, Cherokee, Delta, Fannin, Franklin, Grayson, Gregg, Harrison, Henderson, Hopkins, Hunt, Kaufman, Lamar, Marion, Morris, Nacogdoches, Panola, Rains, Red River, Rockwall, Rusk, Shelby, Smith, Titus, Upshur, Van Zandt, and Wood.
On primary night, Bruner hovered but never quite crossed the 50 percent mark to claim victory, although she noticeably led challengers Keven Ellis (R-Lufkin) and Hank Hering (R-Lindale), who finished second and third, respectively.
Ellis, 44, a chiropractor and longtime Lufkin resident, serves on numerous boards. First elected to the Lufkin ISD Board of Trustees in 2012, he is the current school board president and a charter member of the Lufkin ISD Education Foundation. Bruner has accused Ellis of being the “establishment” Republican candidate, according to the Dallas Morning News. Outgoing Texas House Education Committee Chair Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen) endorsed Ellis.
The last votes of the district’s 626 precincts came in Wednesday morning, ending with Bruner and Ellis heading to a May 24 primary run-off. The winner will face Democrat Amanda Rudolph, a secondary education professor at Sam Houston State University, in the November 8 general election.
Another contender, El Paso Democrat and teacher Georgina Perez, 41, who beat out other liberals in the primary for District 1, faces no Republican challenger in the November election. She may well bring her own share of fireworks to the SBOE. In 2014, this self-described “social justice and dignity activist,” testified alongside Tony Diaz, the controversial voice of the Texas Mexican American Studies (MAS) movement. The SBOE next revisits this ethnic studies elective in Proclamation 2017.
In other races, board incumbents like Barbara Cargill (R-District 8), Sue Melton-Malone (R-District 14), and Marty Rowley (R-District 15) ran unopposed in the primary. In November, Democrat Rebecca Bell-Metereau will challenge Republican incumbent Ken Mercer in the race for District 5. In District 10 Democrat Judy Jennings will go up against Republican incumbent Tom Maynard.
District 6 Democrats Jasmine L. Jenkins and R. Dakota Carter also face a run-0ff to determine who will oppose Republican incumbent and SBOE chair Donna Bahorich (R-Houston) in the general election. In June, 2015, Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Bahorich to oversee the 15-member elected board, of which 10 currently are Republicans and five are Democrats. Bahorich was first elected as a board member in 2012. Like Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and the state’s new Education Commissioner Mike Morath, she is a school choice proponent.
The SBOE’s main responsibilities are setting public education standards, reviewing and adopting instructional materials, establishing graduation requirements, and overseeing the Texas Permanent School fund. They also allow or veto the education commissioner’s picks for open-enrollment public charter schools. It will be interesting to see where the candidates stand on issues as the SBOE races heat up.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.