Dunbar Will See Opposition in 2010

In 2006, Republican Cynthia Dunbar of Richmond drew no Democratic opposition in her run for the District 10 seat 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 editorials warning of martial law under an Obama administration; and writing a book calling public education an unconstitutional "subtly deceptive tool of perversion" – 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 the Chronicle that she definitely plans to challenge Dunbar, and UT math professor Lorenzo Sadun said he's "very likely." Sadun also said he's heard as many as a dozen people are thinking of running as Democrats.

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

"I had to run," she 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 13 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 make up half the vote – and that WilCo and Fort Bend, while still Republican, have been trending toward Dem­o­cratic – gives Shelton optimism. She emphasized that she won't 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 the results of several SBOE-related bills before the Legislature, which will wrap up in May. "None of them are likely to go anywhere," he opined, but if a bill by Austin Rep. Donna Howard to make SBOE elections nonpartisan succeeds, "that will change everything. ... Then the election would be in November with no run-off. In that case, we must not have the anti-Dunbar candidates splitting the vote."

Both Democrats said they respect each other 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 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, he plans to lay the groundwork necessary for a real campaign.

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