Democrats to Challenge Dunbar on Education Board

Shelton and Sadun planning or contemplating 2010 runs

In 2006, Republican Cynthia Dunbar of Richmond drew no Democratic opposition in her run for District 10 on the State Board of Education, allowing her an easy 70% win over a Libertarian opponent.

But with Dunbar making a spectacle of herself lately – being a pro-creationism, anti-evolution voice on the board, writing an editorial warning of martial law under an Obama administration, and writing a book calling public education a "subtly deceptive tool of perversion" and unconstitutional – and the Democratic Party resurging in Texas, she won’t get such an easy walk 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 cliché, 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.”

District 10 includes the northern half of Travis County, all of Williamson and Bastrop Counties, and all or part of 14 other counties to the east and southeast. That pits liberal Austin against more conservative rural counties, but the fact that Travis, Williamson, and Fort Bend counties comprise half the vote – and that Wilco and Fort Bend, while still Republican, have been trending in favor of Democrats – gives Shelton optimism.

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.

Both Democrats said they respect one another, but the prospect of a primary opponent would not change their plans. “Shelton is a really good person,” Sadun said, “but her expertise is in other areas, and I think I’d be the stronger candidate. But any of us would be better than Dunbar.”

Sadun ran for Congressional District 10 in 2004, but as a write-in. Failing to have his name on the ballot doomed him to only 6% of the vote. This time around, he said plans to lay the groundwork necessary for a real campaign.

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Elections, Election 2010, State Board of Education, Cynthia Dunbar, Susan Shelton, Lorenzo Sadun

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