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Endorsement watch: DMN for Ratliff and Kinky

The Dallas Morning News has a couple of endorsements of interest, one good and one puzzling. In the good one, they endorse challenger Thomas Ratliff in his GOP primary race for the SBOE against wingnut Don McLeroy.

McLeroy, a board member since 1999, undoubtedly cares about education. But this panel could use Ratliff’s more practical approach to keep its work focused on essential issues. He’s not an ideological brawler and could develop consensus.

Ratliff has had experience doing just that while serving on boards at his children’s public schools in East Texas. And he says he would listen to teachers and superintendents in determining what students should know. Setting standards is a key function of this board, and Ratliff, 42, would be more in touch with educators than McLeroy. While Ratliff shouldn’t become their captive, Texans are better served by someone who takes teachers’ points of view seriously in crafting curriculum.

We also prefer Ratliff’s emphasis on depoliticizing appointments of outside advisers, including those who handle the state’s sizable education funds. The board has run into problems in selecting investment advisers.

I think that first sentence is too generous to McLeroy, who as far as I can tell cares only about advancing his ideological agenda. The single best thing that could happen to the SBOE would be for Ratliff to beat McLeroy.

And in the puzzling one, they recommend Kinky Friedman for Ag Commish. Sort of. Actually, they just express dislike of Hank Gilbert and go from there.

Gilbert knows agriculture issues in vastly greater depth than Friedman, but he would lead Texas in the wrong direction in key areas. One is a move away from globalization and toward protectionism for farm products. He says he is not a big fan of crop subsidies, yet he thinks Congress caved to foreign nations that complained Washington was propping up U.S. producers too much.

Gilbert, 50, of Whitehouse, also opposes key parts of the state water plan. He would take the proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir off the table as a possible water source for the burgeoning Dallas-Fort Worth area. He would bank on a less-certain strategy of shipping in water from other regions and building massive desalinization plants to purify brackish water.

Friedman, 65, of Austin, doesn’t get into such details. He says he’d hire experts to hash out policy so he could concentrate on being a spokesman for family farms and kindness to animals. That’s not a great model for the job, but a better one than Gilbert proposes.

Inspiring, huh? How seriously is Friedman taking this job and this election? Well, he’s got gigs scheduled in Dallas (warning: music) and here in Houston while early voting is going on. I guess hiring experts to do the actual work really frees a guy up to do what he wants. Hey, DMN, did it occur to you that you could just not offer an endorsement in the race? Sheesh.

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