SBOE 10: Important 2010 Down Ballot Race

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The race for the State Board of Education Place 10, an area which covers the northern half of Travis County (north of the Colorado), all of Williamson, Bastrop and 11 other rural  Counties as it stretches down to the Fort Bend area, is one of the most important and will be one of the most interesting down-ballot contests of 2010.

The SBOE has become one of the favorite political targets of ultra-conservatives in the past few election cycles and has been a battleground for some of the favorite issues of the social conservative movement- sex education and evolution. After being held by a moderate Republican for many years, the Place 10 seat was captured in 2006 by an ultra-conservative candidate funded by voucher proponent James Leininger of San Antonio. While the current SBOE 10 representative faced no Democratic opponent, Leininger still saw fit to donate tens of thousands of dollars to her campaign.

The representative has gone on to make a mockery of her position on the State Board and public education in general in Texas. She has even gone so far as to call public education tyrannical and unconstitutional. Not surprisingly, she has drawn criticism from even the mainstream media and concerned citizens alike. It seems that she will surely draw a primary and general election opponent in 2010. It will be important to get conservatives and moderates who value high-quality public education and who don't wish to make Texas public schools a laughing stock and for progressive and Democratic voters engaged in this contest at an early stage. The more likely she is to draw true solid competition, the more likely her orthodox views will be brought into the open. Whatever happens, it seems that her election in 2010 will not be the cakewalk it was four years ago and the higher the profile that we can give this race the better.

Several upcoming events where those concerned can get involved and learn more are:

Education First general meetup

Saturday, May 30, 2009   2:00 p.m.

Hangtown Grill

5800 Burnet Rd., Austin

Education First is a nonpartisan, informal network of residents of Texas State Board of Education District 10 who are working to promote educational excellence by reducing the influence of politics and ideology on the board.

Public Forum: “Why You Should Care about the State Board of Education?”

June 6, 2009   11:45 a.m.

Yarborough Public Library

2200 Hancock Dr., Austin

Education First general meetup

Saturday, June 27, 2009   2:00 p.m.

Hangtown Grill

5800 Burnet Rd., Austin


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  1. Any idea what the McCain/Obama numbers were?
    I'm looking at a map of the district, I'm guessing it is 56%-44% in McCain's favor. The best thing about the district map is unlike CD-10 it doesn't include western Harris County and has a rapidly shifting fort Bend County instead.

    Could anyone give more details on this?

    • i have a spreadsheet

      I have a spreadsheet where I ran some numbers a few months ago after the election using the SBOE 2006 race and Prez 2008 race number to try and predict turnout and likely voting trends for the 2010 SBOE race. It looks like the district is a Rep district by a thin margin. I'll send it to you if you're interested.

    • Breakdown of the district
      The district consists of three big counties (Travis north of the river, almost all of Ft. Bend, and all of Williamson), two smaller counties (Bastrop and part of Brazoria) and a whole bunch of very small counties. By population, the Big 3 will each have about half a million people by 2010, and all the rest together have less than half a million.

      Travis is heavily Democratic, of course. Williamson is Republican, although mostly of the suburban “we care about schools” variety. Fort Bend is slightly Republican, but is trending Democratic and is widely expected to flip in 2012. The rural counties will be tough. Some, like Washington and Austin, are 3:1 Republican, but others, like Lee and Milam, are used to voting Democratic down-ballot while supporting Republicans for president.

      We'll probably win big in Travis and lose big in the rural areas. I expect the general election to be won or lost with independents and moderate Republicans in Williamson and Fort Bend Counties.

      Full disclosure/shameless plug. I'm running for this seat and would like your support.

  2. Breakdown of SBOE 10
    According to the numbers I've run and bit of analysis I've done, this is what I think:

    If turnout is high- Dems may be within 1 percentage point of the Rep in the general, based on 2008 voting.

    If turnout is low- Dems fall to more than 2 percentage points in the general behind Reps, based on 2008 voting.

    Many caveats exist, mostly that 2008 was not quite a normal year in turnout, especially Dem turnout and the other is that its tough to base turnout and voting behavior on the 2006 SBOE 10 race in which no Dem appeared. I based my numbers on the turnout in the highest vote getting race in 2006 instead. Here's the short of the long of it:

    Projection 1:

    2010 total votes in SBOE 10 race- 568,475

    Repubs – 283359 49.85%

    Dems –   278934 49.07%

    Libs –   6182    1.09%

    Projection 2:

    2010 total votes in SBOE 10 race- 278239

    Repubs – 140866 50.63%

    Dems –   134400 48.3%

    Libs –     2973  1.07%

    I think if Dems are to win they have to raise money and spend it to raise the profile of the race. I think Dems can win the race by only winning Travis Co, especially if they win it big, and loosing all other counties with one caveat- they have to keep the race close in Williamson and Fort Bend. I think if they win Travis and win either one of those two, they could win. I think concentrating on winning Bastrop Co is a good strategy too because doable and close (assuming candidate is from Central Tx)

    • Money, by the way
      Oh, and by the way if Cynthia Dunbar (current SBOE 10 incumbent) runs for re-election she will be coming in with a money war chest and expectations of probably easily $20000 more in donations to flow in.

      She raised this much, mainly from James Leininger in 2006 when she had no Dem opponent at all, only a Lib challenger. She also ran for a U.S. Congressional seat in the meantime, so I think she's ready and able to bring in cash to support her and has a profile among the far right money men and women of the Rep. party.

      All the Republicans have to do to win is keep the fight close in Travis Co. and win all the other counties, a somewhat easy task based on past numbers. If they can stay within 5 or so percentage points in Travis Co. and win all the other counties, even by the hair in Bastrop, Williamson and/or Ft. Bend, Rep. will win.

      • More about money
        The religious right can mobilize their base to vote for Dunbar, largely via the churches, at very little cost. But if they spend money on radio or TV, it's likely to backfire on them by raising the profile of the race.

        As Martin noted, raising the profile is our game. There are lots of independents and moderate Republicans in the district. If they take a close look at the race, they'll reject Dunbar. If they don't notice the race until they're in the voting booth, they're likely to vote for the incumbent.

        Also, $20,000 doesn't go very far in a district with a million voters. That's only 2 cents per voter! Even a budget of $250,000, which is my target for the general election (if I win the primary), won't reach the majority of voters. However, it will make enough noise to generate free media, and to reach enough swing voters to tip the balance.  

        • Make them spend money
          LS, I think you're right. And, it is a good strategy to see the Republican incumbent's money as a strategic opportunity. If the profile of the race is raised and she is forced to spend to protect her lead, then, I think you're right- she ends up raising the profile of the race even higher. And I think you're right that the more moderates and “average joes” that get the message, the better. A quarter mill is a great goal, and if the incumbent raises and spends as much that would definitely mean the profile of the race will be quite high.

    • Thanks for the breakdown
      That looks like it's an opportunity.  Is there always a Libertarian candidate in this race?  If we were lucky enough not to draw one, I can't see Libertarians voting for the incumbent.

      • I expect a Lib

        I expect a Libertarian in the race. I know one who has told me he's thinking about the race. While these down ballot, non-statewide races don't really do much for the Libertarian strategic cause of maintaining ballot access (i.e. to maintain ballot access any party must get atleast 10% vote in a statewide race, which the SBOE isn't, and the general targets for this are supreme court and other mid-ballot statewide races), the Libertarians, especially those in Central Tx, as of late have been maintaining high numbers of candidates covering many races in the last few cycles. I think it's safe to safe this really isn't the best year for the champions of the free market, but, who knows.

        With that said, if there turns out not to be a Lib in the race I would imagine many of those voters would not prefer a religious extremist, but its hard to tell. Maybe some targeted campaigning or reaching out to them could happen if a Lib doesn't run, but I think going for moderates would probably be a better strategy.

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