In surprising results, Republican candidate Charlie Garza appears to be beating State Board of Education incumbent Rene Nunez. This was not a race many people were watching—the district is largely in Democratic El Paso. But with early voting in and 20 percent of precincts reporting, Garza is a solid nine points ahead.
Should he win, Garza would be able to swing vote between the moderates and the hardline social conservatives that have made the board famous.
Meanwhile, Democratic challengers Judy Jennings and Rebecca Bell-Metereau both appear to be losing badly. According to early votes, both women have about 30 percent to their opponents’ 60. The pair has spent months campaigning on a message of “Save Our History.” They used the same political consultants and sometimes sent out joint press releases, hammering the SBOE’s social studies standards.
Now their races look to be all but lost—according to early votes, both women have about 30 percent to their opponents’ 60.
Not that their opponents are the same. Jennings ran against Marsha Farney, a Republican who herself faced a competitive primary against a more hardline, social conservative for an open seat. Bell-Metereau, on the other hand, challenged a sitting incumbent in Ken Mercer. Mercer is one of the board’s hard right faction, but he’s shown himself to be a tough campaigner, soundly beating a primary opponent backed by San Antonio GOP elite.
In one of the few apparent victories for Democrats, early votes do show Michael Soto winning in the open seat left by member Rick Agosto. It’s not a huge shock—his district is dark blue and opponent Tony Cunningham wasn’t a particularly well respected candidate. But it might be some of the only good news Ds see tonight.
Both Jennings and Bell-Metereau were longshots but as I wrote less than three weeks ago they both seemed to stand some chance.
In some ways the races look competitive. According to the most recent fundraising totals, Bell-Metereau has $50,000 on hand compared with Mercer’s $12,000 and Jennings has a $30,000 fundraising lead over Farney. “People across both parties are agreeing with my message,” said Jennings. If she sounds confident enough, it may be because she’s gotten attention from DailyKos and outraised many expectations.
Not that this means a big victory for the board’s famous (and infamous) social conservatives. They already saw their big defeat in the March, when moderate Republican Thomas Ratliff unseated incumbent social conservative Don McLeroy. Incumbent moderate Republican Bob Craig appears safe as does George Clayton, the GOP primary longshot who beat sitting Republican Tincy Miller in March.