DALLAS (AP) – Several incumbents on the State Board of Education retained their positions despite challenges in Tuesday’s primary, while others lost their spots.
With all 15 spots up for re-election this year because of redistricting, there is a possibility that the face of the board could change. And as in many other races across the state, candidates asked voters to decide how conservative the board should be.
An intense fight over evolution and intelligent design theory in science curriculum put a national spotlight on the board in 2009 when it adopted standards that encourage public schools to scrutinize “all sides” of scientific theory.
Currently, there are four Democrats and 11 Republicans on the board, with six of those Republicans considered part of the social conservative bloc. The Board of Education positions are among hundreds of races Texas voters cast ballots in during the state’s primary. The positions hold significant influence: The board has responsibility for establishing the state’s public school curriculum, approving textbooks and managing the state’s permanent school fund. In the next few years, the board is set to adopt new science and social studies textbooks.
Here’s how some of the races shaped up:
— DISTRICT 5: Incumbent Ken Mercer, a social conservative, defeated physician assistant Steve Salyer. Mercer, a software engineer from San Antonio, will face Democrat Rebecca Bell-Metereau of San Marcos in the general election on Nov. 6. “I’m a strong conservative. Mr. Salyer is a good candidate — he calls himself a moderate,” Mercer said. “In this race, in this primary, across the state, you are seeing people who are solid conservatives winning.”
— DISTRICT 14: Social conservative incumbent Gail Lowe was defeated by retired teacher Sue Melton. Lowe, elected to the state board in 2002, served as board chair from July 2009 till May 2011. She was replaced after Democrats blocked her appointment by Gov. Rick Perry. Lowe, of Lampasas, is co-publisher of a semi-weekly newspaper. There is no Democratic candidate for the spot.
— DISTRICT 9: Republican Thomas Ratliff, the son of former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff and a moderate voice on the board, defeated Randy Stevenson, a financial adviser from Tyler, who countered that in contrast to his opponent, he is “a clear consistent conservative voice.” Stevenson was part of a social conservative bloc when he served on the board from 1995 to 1999 before choosing not to run again in 1998. There is no Democratic candidate.
— DISTRICT 3: In a surprise loss, in Democrat incumbent Michael Soto, an associate professor of English at Trinity University in San Antonio, lost to Democratic challenger Marisa Perez, a San Antonio social worker. Perez will face Republican David Williams, a teacher from San Antonio, in the Nov. 6 general election.
— DISTRICT 8: Social conservative incumbent Barbara Cargill, who currently chairs the board, defeated Linda Ellis, a consultant from The Woodlands and former teacher who said on her website that she’s “watched in horror as ideologues took over” the board. Cargill, of The Woodlands, is a former teacher and founder and director of a science camp who writes on her website that she supports history curriculum that emphasizes patriotism, anti-abortion health textbooks and science textbooks that present evolution as a theory. Cargill will face Democrat Dexter Smith.
— DISTRICT 2: Middle school teacher Laurie Turner defeated high school teacher Veronica Anzaldua to face the Democratic nominee in the general election on Nov. 6. The District 2 spot from South Texas was formerly held by Democrat Mary Helen Berlanga, who is not running after 30 years on the board. The winner will face the Democratic candidate in the general election.
— DISTRICT 7: Incumbent David Bradley, one of the board’s social conservatives, defeated businesswoman Rita Ashley. Bradley works in the insurance and real estate business in Beaumont and Ashley is a former teacher from Beaumont who currently works as a jewelry designer. There is no Democratic candidate.
— RUNOFFS: In District 12, Geraldine “Tincy” Miller and Gail Spurlock advance to a runoff, resulting in the current incumbent, George M. Clayton, losing his spot. Miller, of Dallas, first began serving on the state board in 1984. She was defeated in the primary in 2010 by the Clayton, a special projects coordinator for a Dallas high school. The winner will face Democrat Lois Parrott in the general election. In District 10, Tom Maynard, of Florence, who taught high school agriculture for more than a decade, faces a run-off with Rebecca Osborne, a teacher from Austin. The winner of the run-off will face Democrat Judy Jennings in the general election.
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