After Primary Loss, George Clayton Fires Up Campaign to Keep State Board of Ed Seat

Openly gay Republican says he was done in by ideology, not education issues.
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george-claytonThe gloves are coming off in Dallas Republican George Clayton’s race to keep his seat on the State Board of Education.

Convinced he was done in by a conservative whisper campaign against him for being gay, and worried that either of his Republican opponents will spell trouble for the SBOE, he’s sounding more vocal, more defiant, than he ever was back before his primary election was decided.

The fact that his race ended in May is but a minor wrinkle—no candidate earned more than 50 percent of the vote, so the GOP primary will be decided in a runoff at the end of this month. The fact that Clayton finished third in May, and won’t be a part of the upcoming runoff, is but another trifle.

Instead, Clayton is launching a write-in campaign for the general election in November. It’s a long shot, he knows, but Clayton says, “When you consider what’s left after I came in third, it was an easy decision to make.”

What’s left are Geraldine “Tincy” Miller, who’s running to reclaim the seat she held for nearly 20 years before Clayton beat her in 2010, and Gail Spurlock, the tea party favorite who famously said that half of the first pilgrims in New England died because of their communistic ways.

Clayton says he simply “will not permit either one of these women to go down there as easily as they both think they’re going to.” Of those three Republicans, Clayton is the only one with classroom teaching experience—he’s now a special projects coordinator in reading for Dallas ISD. “They’re more concerned about ideology than about experience,” Clayton says, “and I don’t give a rat’s ass about political ideology.”

Miller came just short of winning this year’s primary outright, with more than 48 percent of the vote. Clayton just missed a spot in the runoff, finishing less than one percent behind Spurlock. On the Democratic side, former Dallas school board member Lois Parrott has her work cut out for her too, in a district that includes the ultra-conservative Collin County suburbs north of Dallas.

“I have never yet figured out just exactly what my three opponents could tell me that I’ve done so wrong,” Clayton says. “I am convinced more than ever that my sexual orientation had a great deal to do with it. And I will not permit that to defeat me.”

Late last year, Clayton’s bid to hold onto his seat took on extra significance when he confirmed the rapidly spreading rumor that he’s gay. He shares a home with his partner of 30 years. Had he won in May, he would’ve been the first openly gay Republican elected in Texas. He says he was as clear as possible about it during his campaign, but he could tell it was always an issue bubbling just below the surface.
“It was never blatantly mentioned to me. I can feel it in the air and see it in the faces of the people listening to me talk,” Clayton says. “I can tell there were some people, these reactionary, uber-conservative types who were just bursting to say something, but they didn’t.”

Clayton first announced that he’s keeping up his fight in an email earlier this week to conservative firebrand Donna Garner, a staunch Spurlock backer. On Tuesday morning, Garner delivered a missive to her email list re-endorsing Spurlock, writing that she “oozes with good, old-fashioned common sense” and deriding “TINCY’S LACK OF COURAGE.”

Clayton replied by calling Garner “as big a fake as Gail,” sparking an exchange Garner later sent out to her email list as well.

“I was trashed beyond belief in the primary campaign by Gail, Tincy and other narrow minded CINOS, Christians In Name Only,” Clayton wrote. “You and Gail carry a Bible in one hand and a bag of stones in the other.”

On the phone Wednesday, Clayton says he’s worried that a win for Spurlock will return the SBOE to the days of Don McLeroy a few years back, when man and dinosaur nearly walked hand-in-hand in state-approved science books. “I looked down at that state board when all that circus was going on and I was so disgusted. In fact, that’s why I ran,” Clayton says. “And I can see it coming again.”

Patrick Michels is a reporter for the Texas Observer and a former legislative intern. He has been a staff writer and web editor at the Dallas Observer, and a former editor of the Texas Independent. He has a bachelor's in journalism from Northwestern University, a master's in photojournalism from the University of Texas at Austin, and is a competitive eating enthusiast.