UPDATED: SBOE 3: Is Michael Soto Our Savior in the State Board of Education?

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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.

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Three political methods exist to stop the State Board of Education from crippling our schools with an extremist agenda.

  1. Run a Democrat against a socially conservative Republican and win.
  2. Support moderate Republicans against the God-Fearing Conservative Republicans, and make sure they win.
  3. 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.

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7 Comments

  1. Demographics of SBOE10 (and SBOE5)
     

    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.”

    That's not true. SBOE10 is a swing district that Barack Obama only lost by 2% (50-48).  SBOE5, where Obama lost by 10%, can also plausibly called a swing district. Both have elections in 2010.

    SBOE7 isn't a swing district. Obama lost there by 22%. But even there, in the SBOE race last year, Laura Ewing only lost to David Bradley by 10%. In other words, qualified Democrats running against right-wing extremists can run well ahead of the DPI. If Ewing had been running in SBOE5, she might well have won. Running in SBOE10, she definitely would have won.

    I am running to replace Cynthia Dunbar in SBOE 10, and I can use all the help that the netroots can give. Please go to my website,  LorenzoSadun.com, learn more about the campaign, sign up as a supporter, and volunteer. Please go to my Act Blue page and donate generously.

    Above all, spread the word that Cynthia Dunbar can, must, and will be replaced in 2010.  

    • We have different definitions of “Swing” districts
      We have called those “swing” districts in US Congressional Districts, but we have failed so far to win CD10 or CD7.  (CD10 we might stand a chance in, because Jack McDonald has an early head start in raising money.)  But then, the SBOE Districts are twice as large as the Congressional Districts — hence, twice as hard to get back the vote.

      SBOE 10 is plausibly a swing district, though.  It's just hard to say as…a Democrat hasn't run there this decade.  It's easily my biggest hope as far as winning a Republican seat, though.

      • SBOE10 is a lot more balanced than CD10 or CD7
        Obama lost by 11% in CD10 (about the same as SBOE5) and 17% in CD7.  He only lost by 2% in SBOE10. It doesn't get much closer than that! 2010 isn't 2008, and we'll have to work hard to turn out our voters and get moderates to cross over, but SBOE10 isn't a long shot. It's a race that we can and should win.

        Click here for the Texas Legislative Council's electoral breakdown of the SBOE districts, and here for congressional districts. If you don't like using the presidential race as a benchmark, you can look up any race since 2000 and compare.  

  2. By all means, Soto for SBOE 3!
    I heard Michael Soto speak when he was campaigning for the San Antonio ISD board.  He is smart, energetic, and charismatic, and he can easily win over a crowd with his message of how all Texans need to work together to improve education for our children.  And perhaps most importantly for us, he is a reliable Democrat running for a position where a reliable Democrat is urgently needed.

    If he didn't win the school board race, it's mostly because he didn't have the name recognition of his opponent, the former mayor of San Antonio.  But Soto was the most impressive candidate for school board I've ever encountered.  And he is absolutely the right person to rally behind for SBOE 3.

    Four years ago when the incumbent Rick Agosto was on the ballot, his only opponent was not even campaigning and wouldn't return phone calls from the Express-News Editorial Board.  Agosto's opponent didn't have a job, and apparently lost interest after learning that SBOE members don't get paid.  So Agosto coasted through the election after being virtually invisible as a candidate.  He didn't have a campaign website, and hardly information was available about him on the internet.  And for the past three years he's been “serving” on the SBOE, voting with the far-right extremists far too often.

    We need a change in SBOE 3, and we need Michael Soto.

  3. if you vote in the republican primary you get 2 swings at dunbar
    for the travis county moderates & independents out there who also want to have a decision on who will be our next governor (perry or hutchinson) you could hold your nose, mosey on over the republican primary and take a swing at cynthia dunbar by voting for her moderate opponent and then, take another shot on election day if she wins. 2 tries is better than one right?

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