SBOE District 10

Two shades of conservative

In a state as Republican as Texas, cleaning up the embarrassing mess that is the State Board of Education will probably have to start with reasonable elements of the GOP. A number of moderate, less ideologically driven Republicans stood up in the primary to challenge the religious fundamentalists who have driven the SBOE into a ditch, with partial success.

In SBOE District 10, right-wing ideologue Cynthia Dunbar ended her disastrous service at one term, but North Austinites and others in the district that sprawls almost to Houston can't breathe a sigh of relief yet. She hand-picked Austin GOP activist Brian Russell as her successor, and he made it into the run-off with 35.3% of the Republican vote.

Russell won't talk to the Chronicle (apparently he took umbrage at being described as part of the "crazy" faction; see "Reclaiming Education: Hoping for Sanity at the SBOE," Feb. 12), but to give you some idea of where he's coming from, check out his website: On the front page, where he uses the term "conservative" as though it were a drumbeat (no less than seven times in six paragraphs), Russell professes to include among his educational values both "phonics" and "computational mathematics, not 'fuzzy' math" as well as "an unashamedly patriotic view of American history, emphasizing the God-given individual rights and limited government enshrined in the Constitution." He also boasts that he "authored the Republican Party of Texas ... resolution supporting the adoption of new, rigorous science standards by the SBOE that permit students to think for themselves and ask questions about scientific theories like evolution and man-made global warming."

Russell wasn't the top vote-getter, though. Georgetown's Marsha Farney, who bills herself as the "common sense conservative," took 35.5% and, to the surprise of some, shunted McNeil High School teacher Rebecca Osborne, another moderate, into third (29.2%). When asked by the Chronicle, Farney hedged a bit regarding where she stood on the key issue of teaching evolution; she would only say: "My faith is not shaken by evolution. ... It should be taught as a theory." Still, she does seem focused on pushing an educational agenda rather than an ideological one. She picks her words carefully, choosing not to slam the woman she wants to replace: "My voice is a different voice," she says. "My voice is the voice of an educator."

The winner of the run-off will face Democrat Judy Jennings, who was unopposed in her primary.

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elections, State Board of Education, Cynthia Dunbar, Brian Russell, Marsha Farney, Judy Jennings

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