Allover Texas, the gloves came off and politicalparty lines were drawn for the May 10,2014 public school board elections. Incumbents backed by the Democratic Party cameout swinging to maintain the status quo against grassroots conservative candidateswho jumped into this year’s races.
Grassrootscandidates for Texas school board of trustee positions threw their hats intothe ring over a variety of reasons, including concerns about the controversialCommon Core State Standards creeping into Texas classrooms, local school boarddirection, and issues of corruption. Most were newcomers who said they wanted to bringa fresh perspective to their communities.
Manywere also Tea Party conservatives who never ran for public office before, althougha few were repeaters. People like Andrew Bennett in NorthwestISD, Misty Whitley in Crawley ISD, Lawrence BillyJonesin Garland ISD, and Ginger Russell in Magnolia ISDwere among those whose conservative values were not embraced in schooldistricts in the great state of Texas. They were shunned, marginalized, and worse.
Perhaps the most vicious of the campaigns, accordingto Houston radio talk show host Matt Patrick, was the race in Magnolia ISD. Patrick reported that thisranked among the nastiest and most competitive. Ginger Russell appeared onPatrick’s AM-740 KTRH show on May 6.
Russellwas no stranger to grassroots activism. Theoften colorfully worded and fiery Red Hot Conservative, Russell has foughtagainst the controversial Texas CSCOPE curriculum and has kept a watchful eyeon Common Core. According to the Patrick interview, Russell first came underattack on social media after she sent out a tweet mocking the slogan of a localhigh school while responding to its principal.
BreitbartTexas spoke to Russell, who admitted in hindsight that was a foolish thing forher to do; however, the subsequent tweet-bashingshe received from her opponent and her opponent’s supporters far exceeded thecontent of the original tweet.
It turned ugly and very political. One parent tweeted, in part, “We knowthe people that support Ginger are extremists…”
Therewas also a tweet depicting Russell getting sucker punched and another in whichMagnolia ISD high schoolers posed in classroom photos with anti-Russell text messages;these were tweeted to Russell.
Russelltold Patrick about these tweets. Shesaid, “They’re attacking me on social media, having the children attack meand they’re at school doing this – why aren’t they doing their schoolwork?”
Thisrace got so out-of-control that a Magnolia ISD teacher posted her disdain forthe political pressure coming from the incumbent’s team on Facebook. She asked, “sincewhen is a school board election about politics? It should be about educationand our children.”
Theteacher also noted, “When the school board president sent me a letter withKristi Baker’s card in it… I was extremely offended. I am an educator and know how to research anddecide for myself who I feel is best.” The teacher concluded, “She is wrong to try to sway ourvotes.”
Perhapsthe most interesting critic to show up on Twitter to support Baker was from anotherschool district, Northwest ISD – Kim Burkett, a PTA board member, who tweetedto Baker, “Unfortunately, there are fringe candidates like this trying totake over school boards all over the state.”
Previously,Burkett gushed her support for WendyDavis’s gubernatorial bid. She has slammedconservatives in blog posts labeling themas extremists, radicals, and opportunists who spread conspiracy theories, are onwitch hunts, and have fringe views. Accordingto Burkett, the grassroots “focused their attention to Common Core as thenext boogeyman on their hit list.”
BreitbartTexas reported on Burkett’sattempts to silence a parent who questioned why Common Core materials wereshowing up in Northwest ISD. That parent, Andrew Bennett, decided to run forhis school board this Spring.
KristiBaker, the incumbent, who claimed to be running for re-election, was actually appointed to thedistrict’s board in 2013 when another trustee resigned. Thus, this is her firstrace. She was endorsed by the MagnoliaISD board of trustees; however, her most notable endorsement came from theDemocratic Party.
TheMontgomery County Democratic Party newsletter (April 10,2014), stated “…the incumbent, Kristi Baker is being opposed by a TeaParty true believer named Ginger Russell.”
Thearticle alleged Russell supported white supremacy and fallaciously positionedRussell as a threat, providing links to present her unflatteringly in a HuffingtonPost 2013 article. They also shared links to Patriot Action group photos of Russell withconservatives like Republican Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann and former TexasRep. Ron Paul.
The Matt Patrick Show stated that they invited Russell’s opponent Baker and otherdistrict officials to also participate in an on-air conversation about theboard race. Although they initiallyagreed to participate, all ultimately declined.
BreitbartTexas tried to contact Baker and several Magnolia ISD officials for their sideof the story, but these calls were not returned.
Theardent attacks against grassroots conservatives in school board races didn’tend with Russell. Misty Whitley inCrowley ISD located in the Fort Worth area met with fierce personalattacks. Private information about herchild was mysteriously released and appeared in an anonymous letter from aconcerned citizen to the full school board. It questioned Whitley’s competency.
Furthermore,Whitley told Breitbart Texas that parents called her “a liar” andaccused her of outlandish things like planning to fire teachers. Whitley alsosaid she was most saddened by parents who no longer allow their children toplay together.
InMarch, Empower Texans endorsed Whitley. DFWOffice Director of Empower Texans and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility RossKecseg praised her, stating, “Misty Whitley is a dedicated parent who will pushfor common-sense practices that allow families to more easily engage theirdistrict fiduciaries.”
Kecsegadded that “Misty has been an outspoken advocate for providing campus staffwith the support and leadership necessary to address every student’s needs inCrowley ISD, including those with special needs. A renewed focus ontransparency, fiscal accountability, parental relationships and academicachievement are paramount in ensuring families and surrounding communities haverestored confidence in the local schools they are financing.”
However,Democratic Party former candidate Gary Grassiasent out an urgent message to “fellow Democrats” regarding Whitley thatbegan, “HELP STOP the TEA PARTY in Crowley ISD.”
Thememo then continued on to say, “Crowley ISD is undergoing a Tea Partytakeover and we need ALL THE HELP we can get! There is already one TP sittingas a trustee and 3 more are trying to be elected. If all three are elected they will havemajority.”
TheTP trustee that Grassia referred to was Sybil Lane, who told Empower Texansthat she wasn’t even affiliated with the Tea Party.
Grassia,who failed in his 2012attempt as the Democratic candidate for House District 97, went on to claim: “As active Dems you know the Tea Party’s focus is to defund publicschools…”
Hethen accused Tea Party candidates ofspouting nonsense “to scare people” followed by wild allegation thatall Tea Party candidates “tout theyare Christian Conservatives who want transparency and fiscal responsibilitywhile bringing Jesus back into the ISD.“
Heclosed his note, “PLEASE HELP” and advised readers that he along withothers formed an SPAC for the purpose of getting three Democratic preferredcandidates elected.
EmpowerTexans also reported on thisdisturbing trend in other school board races that included some vile rhetoric emanatingfrom Keller ISD’s Shane Hardin, who “called Ted Cruz a ‘bastard’ andpromulgated studies supposedly linking ‘extreme conservatism to racism and lowI.Q.'”