Although their races were not nearly as dramatic as was the U.S. presidential election that won the White House for Republican candidate Donald J. Trump, Texas conservatives, many of them incumbents, won big in their bids for State Board of Education (SBOE) on Tuesday.
SBOE chair Donna Bahorich (R-Houston), representing District 6, won a second term. She easily defeated challenger Dr. Dakota Carter (D-Houston), a 28-year-old psychiatry graduate student currently pursuing a doctorate in education from the University of Houston. Bahorich, declared the winner with a comfortable lead, captured 54 percent of the votes. Carter trailed with only 42 percent.
Late Tuesday evening, Bahorich tweeted in appreciation to her constituents: “Thanks voters! 54% to 42%. So honored to keep serving.”
Thanks voters! 54% to 42%! So honored to keep serving!! pic.twitter.com/y3OlpHKQci
— Donna Bahorich (@donnabahorich) November 9, 2016
Bahorich was first elected to the SBOE in November 2012. Governor Greg Abbott appointed her to oversee the 15-member elected state board as its current chairwoman in 2015. In that role, Bahorich sets the agenda for the state education board’s meetings, which take place five to six times a year. Like Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and Education Commissioner Mike Morath, Bahorich is a school choice proponent.
Breitbart Texas reported Bahorich previously served as campaign manager to Patrick during his first bid for the state senate in 2006. Subsequently, she served on Patrick’s team in various capacities, including district director, campaign treasurer, and communications director.
East Texas resident, chiropractor, and Lufkin school board president Kevin Ellis (R-Lufkin) decisively clinched a victory for District 9. Ellis won almost 74 percent of the fiercely conservative district’s votes while opponent Amanda Rudolf (D-Nacogdoches), a Stephen F. Austin State University professor, snagged only 23 percent. Earlier this year, Ellis defeated his rival, the controversial Mary Lou Bruner, in a high-profile primary run-off race to represent the GOP in this sizeable 31-county district.
Ellis will assume the SBOE seat vacated by the often colorful Thomas Ratliff (R-Mt. Pleasant), who did not seek re-election this year. Ratliff served as the board’s vice chair. He was first elected to serve in 2010.
Incumbent Tom Maynard (R-Georgetown) easily retook his District 10 seat in a 54 to 43 blow-out against Judy Jennings (D-Austin). She failed to defeat Maynard for a third time, keeping the district’s seat in conservative hands.
A much tighter race took place in District 5 where incumbent Ken Mercer (R-San Antonio) took 50 percent of the vote, defeating challenger Rebecca Bell-Metereau (D-San Marcos) by only four percentage points. This race marked the Central Texas Democrat’s third failed attempt in six years to unseat Mercer in an SBOE bid.
Three conservative incumbents ran unopposed – former SBOE chair Barbara Cargill (R-District 8), Sue Melton-Malone (R-District 14), and Marty Rowley (R-District 15).
In the remaining race, El Paso Democrat and former teacher Georgina Perez beat out Green Party challenger Hugo Noyola Jr., garnering 83 percent of the vote to his 16 percent for the District 1 seat. Perez, a self-described “social justice and dignity activist,” may well bring fireworks to the SBOE. In 2014, she testified alongside Tony Diaz, the outspoken voice of the Texas Mexican American Studies (MAS) movement. The Texas Tribune attributed Perez to saying the board’s Democrats have sat silent for far too long. She will take the seat of predecessor Martha Dominguez, also a Democrat, who did not seek re-election.
The 15-member SBOE, of which 10 members are Republicans, and five are Democrats, sets policies and standards for Texas public schools. Its primary responsibilities include setting curriculum standards, reviewing and adopting instructional materials, establishing graduation requirements, and overseeing the Texas Permanent School Fund. They can veto or allow the education commissioner’s picks for open-enrollment charter schools.
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