UPDATE: It turns out that Michael Soto did not need to stellar a campaign to beat Mr. Agosto. Soto had won the backing of Senator Van de Putte and former SBOE Member Joe Bernal. Today, Rick Agosto, the Conservative Democrat whom Soto was going to challenge, has announced that he will not run for reelection in 2010. I wrote the post below before this news. If Dr. Soto is our next SBOE 3 Representative, I will be glad to have a new man with such assets on the board.
Three political methods exist to stop the State Board of Education from crippling our schools with an extremist agenda.
- Run a Democrat against a socially conservative Republican and win.
- Support moderate Republicans against the God-Fearing Conservative Republicans, and make sure they win.
- Purge any Democrats who vote with the Socially Conservative Bloc.
The first two options will prove quite difficult. Locally, lots of Democrats are lining up to take on the ultra-crazy Cynthia Dunbar, and they all should be applauded for that, but a 15-seat body to represent everyone in Texas doesn't exactly have “swing districts.” Beating Cynthia Dunbar in a general election, unfortunately, will require a lot of money, a lot of volunteers, and/or a lot of luck. It's possible. I'll keep my fingers crossed, but eventual failure in these efforts will not surprise me.
The second option is highlighted in this excellent article from the Texas Tribune. Most notably, Thomas Ratliff, son of former Lieutenant Governor Bill Ratliff, is running against former chair Don McLeroy. I remain skeptical about putting too much stock here, too. We just saw Republicans abandon their own candidate in NY-23 because she was too moderate, and almost every sign in Texas shows that Rick Perry and his extra-conservative gang lead the state GOP. Success here will be easier than in the general election, so we should consider helping folks like Bill Ratliff if we can. But still, failure in these endeavors won't phase me a bit.
That same Texas Tribune article reminded me of the third option:
Though the board had (and still has) ten Republican and five Democrats, seven socially conservative Republicans had formed a reliable voting bloc that, with the swing vote of Democratic member Rick Agosto, gave them the power to push forward a socially conservative agenda.
A Democrat should never vote with a far-right block anywhere, especially when his or her single vote is so important — Not to mention on a regular basis, as Mr. Agosto does!
On a board where the Republicans have stocked many of their farthest right members, I'm not suggesting all Democrats be far-left, but they shouldn't consider associating with those in the farthest right, either. Worse yet with Agosto, he is involved in some SBOE ethics problems, which could jeopardize his chances in a general election while opening up the opportunity for an even more conservative board member. Some speculation even suggests that his ethics troubles and his periodic support of the Right Evangelistic positions are interrelated!
Can this guy get any worse?
We probably shouldn't wait to find out.
Thankfully, his seat is on the 2010 ballot. People have been calling for challengers for a while, and the San Antonio Express-News even joined the fray in a mid-October editorial, saying, “surely there are more qualified candidates in this 11-county SBOE District 3 region than we saw in 2006.” After reading the editorial, I combed through the interwebs to see if anyone in this district has expressed remote interest in challenging the most Republican Democrat on the State Board of Education.
One name came up: Dr. Michael Soto, an English professor at Trinity University. Looking at his website, he looks like a potential asset for the board. Wonderful. Now, can he win?
He ran for the San Antonio ISD school board in May, and he garnered almost 44% of the vote. Impressively, however, he managed this against former mayor Ed Garza. In that race he managed to gain the support of local San Antonio businessmen, but the race isn't just in San Antonio. SBOE 3 runs from Bexar County all the way down to Hidalgo County in the Valley. And Agosto rings a bit more Hispanic than Soto. He has a website already, but it's lacking in many respects compared to Rick Agosto's.
He could use some help. And right now, no one else is stepping up. So if you live in the district, either offer Mr. Soto a hand or find another challenger. We need someone here.
If he's the only other option, he could be our savior on the State Board of Education. Right now, nobody has a better chance to rid the board of a bunch of bad votes.