Between voluntary departures, redistricting, and a punishing primary for some candidates, the SBOE will have six new members after the November elections. For context, the board had four freshmen at the start of 2021, two freshmen at the beginning of 2019, and two freshmen at the beginning of 2017.
Two incumbents lost in their respective March primaries, and both were Republicans. Along with Republican primaries for other seats, the two races pitted outspoken opponents of critical race theory against quieter incumbents who devoted less attention to the topic.
Jay Johnson (R-District 15) lost the primary to challenger Aaron Kinsey, one of the strongest fundraisers in any SBOE race this year. Johnson’s charter school votes put him in hot water for many conservatives, drawing unusually broad attention to the race. Kinsey nabbed the endorsements of Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, pro-life group Texas Right to Life, and state Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock). Since District 15 will likely stay Republican, Kinsey’s spot on the board is all but guaranteed.
Sue Melton-Malone (R-District 14) also lost in the Republican primary. Teacher Evelyn Brooks ended the night with a solid nine-point lead over Melton-Malone, taking 57 percent of the vote on March 1. Perceived as the more conservative candidate between the two, Brooks prioritizes school choice, parental authority in education, and rejection of critical race theory and “comprehensive sexual education.”
Additionally, several incumbent members left voluntarily before the primary: Georgina Pérez (D-District 1), Ruben Cortez (D-District 2), and Lawrence Allen (D-District 4).
Pérez will likely pass the baton to Melissa Ortega, the candidate she endorsed. Ortega won the primary but fell shy of a majority with 46 percent of the vote and will face Laura Marquez in a runoff election. The winner will face Republican Michael Stevens in the general election, which has a 58 percent chance of remaining blue.
The five-way Democratic primary to replace Cortez in District 2 ended somewhat narrowly, with the top four candidates lingering around the 20-30 percent range. Victor Perez came out on top with 29.6 percent and will face Pete Garcia in a runoff election.
With a 52 percent chance of remaining Democratic based on voting data from the past two general elections, District 2 is the most competitive seat in the SBOE. Billing himself as an opponent of critical race theory, former teacher LJ Francis beat out Hilda Garza DeShazo in the Republican primary for the seat.
After the legislature finished drawing the new district maps in 2021, incumbent member Matt Robinson (R-District 7) no longer lived in the district he represented — a move that he believes was intentional due to his opposition to charter school expansion. Candidate Julie Pickren squeaked past the halfway line to gain a majority and win the primary on March 1. She will face Dan Hochman in the general election for the open seat.
Since critical race theory remains just one issue among a slate of increasingly prominent education topics, the influence it wielded in SBOE primaries remains unsure. But one thing is certain: the 2022 November board meeting will see a notably different board representing a decidedly more scrupulous electorate than in recent years.
Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.