February 03, 2009
Two challengers for Dunbar

Cynthia Dunbar, one of the loonier members of the State Board of Education, has at least two Austin-based Democrats considering challenges against her in 2010.

In the past two days, party activist Susan Shelton confirmed to me that she definitely plans to challenge Dunbar, and University of Texas math professor Lorenzo Sadun said he's "very likely." Sadun also told me he's heard "as many as a dozen people are thinking of running" as Democrats.

"Yes, I'm running," Shelton told me at the Central Texas Democratic Forum on Thursday. "I've been reading Dunbar's book, and we need somebody less extreme in there.

"I had to run," Shelton continued. "It's a cliche, but I'll need somebody to take care of me in my dotage, and I need them to be educated. There was no way I could not do this."

I met Susan at the state Democratic convention last year, and I recall her talking about this at that time. I'm glad to see her follow through. Both she and Sadun would be vast upgrades over Dunbar.

Shelton emphasized that she will not begin actively campaigning until after Austin's May 9 municipal elections. She serves as political director for Lee Leffingwell's mayoral campaign, and said she wants to focus on "one race at a time."

Sadun said that if he finally makes it official, he'll also wait until after the muni contests. He said he also wants to wait to see he results of several SBOE-related bills before the 81st Texas Legislation, which will wrap up June 1. "None of them are likely to go anywhere," Sadun opined, but if a bill by Austin Rep. Donna Howard to make SBOE elections nonpartisan is successful, "that will change everything. ... Then the election would be in November with no runoff. In that case, we must not have the anti-Dunbar candidates splitting the vote."

While I can understand the appeal of Rep. Howard's bill (HB420, for which Rep. Ellen Cohen is listed as a coauthor), I don't really think it solves anything. What I would expect to happen is that there would be fewer votes cast in these already-obscure elections, and that fewer voters would have any real idea about the candidates and their positions. At least with the label of a political party, you have some expectation that the candidates each have a set of beliefs that fall roughly within a certain spectrum. Under HB420, you'd have even less than that. A better solution to de-mystifying these low-information down-ballot races would be to ensure the candidates have the resources to make themselves known to the voters, which implies some kind of public campaign financing scheme. As that's a non-starter around here, I'd prefer either abolishing the SBOE altogether, as Sen. Rodney Ellis is seeking to do, or greatly expanding its size, so that each district is smaller and thus cheaper in which to run - SBOE districts are now twice the size of Congressional districts - to making the races nonpartisan. All due respect to Reps. Howard and Cohen, but I hope this bill goes nowhere.

UPDATE: If you're in Austin, you totally need to see this. And please, take video and post it on YouTube. Thanks very much.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 03, 2009 to Election 2010

Cynthia Dunbar won a SIX year term in 2006.

That'd mean she would nxt be up for election in 2012.

I have known Cynthia and Glenn Dunbar since the GOP State Convention in 2000 and have visited with them much throughout the past decade but did believe it was wrong to want to run Texas public education but refuse to send your own children to Texas' public. I remember to me as a Jewish parent of a child in public school her doing that and wanting to push that there be Christian text in public schools is like wanting to send her kids to McDonald's & pushing veggie menus at Burger King if all other kids went there.

I remember her on my ballot vs. US Army Veteran, young businessman & father in public schools Tony Dale in the GOP Primary in 2006 and her having a Libertarian opponent in the fall.

Posted by: Burt Levine on February 3, 2009 7:01 AM

Burt - I believe you are incorrect about the length of the term. Checking the SOS website, everyone who ran for a full term in 2004 - in SbOE districts 2, 6, 7, 8, 11, 13, and 14 - ran again in 2008. As such, I expect Dunbar in SBOE 10 to be on the ballot next year.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on February 3, 2009 9:06 AM

Much of the legislation this year seems to be based on the need for political platforms in 2010 than public interest although I suppose some would say that is the way it is each and every legislative session. One of these days someone will realize one of the biggest problems in Texas is the need for an annual session of the legislature. That might possibly allow some public input on proposed bills instead of the usual political pandering to lobbyists and to the political platform for the next election.

Reality is our legislature seems to spend each sesssion running for office than anything else. This one in particular.

Posted by: Baby Snooks on February 3, 2009 10:59 PM

Article VII, section 8 of the Texas Constitution specifies that the Legislature prescribes the terms for the SBOE, not to exceed six years. Education Code section 7.104 states that SBOE members are elected to staggered four-year terms.

Posted by: Kenneth Fair on February 4, 2009 1:15 PM
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