Between voluntary departures, redistributions and punitive primaries for certain candidates, the SBOE will have six new members after the November elections. For context, the board had four freshmen as of early 2021, two freshmen as of early 2019, and two freshmen as of early 2017.
Two incumbents lost in their respective March primaries, and both were Republicans. Along with Republican primaries for other seats, both races pitted outspoken opponents of critical race theory against quieter incumbents who devoted less attention to the subject.
Jay Johnson (R-District 15) lost the primary to the challenger Aaron Kinsey, one of the best fundraisers of any SBOE race this year. Johnson’s charter school votes got him in hot water for numerous conservatives, drawing unusually wide attention to the breed. Kinsey won endorsements from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the pro-life group Texas Right to Life and State Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock). Since District 15 will likely remain Republican, Kinsey’s spot on the board is all but guaranteed.
Sue Melton Malone (R-District 14) also lost in the Republican primary. Teacher Evelyn Brooks finished the night with a solid nine-point lead over Melton-Malone, winning 57% of the vote on March 1. Perceived as the more conservative candidate between the two, Brooks gives priority school choice, parental authority in education, and rejection of critical race theory and “comprehensive sex education”.
Additionally, several incumbents left voluntarily before the primary: Georgina Pérez (D-District 1), Ruben Cortez (D-District 2), and Lawrence Allen (D-District 4).
Pérez will likely pass the baton to Melissa Ortega, the candidate she backed. Ortega won the primary but fell short of a majority with 46% of the vote and will face Laura Marquez in a runoff. The winner will face Republican Michael Stevens in the general election, who has a 58% chance of remaining blue.
The five-way Democratic primary to replace Cortez in District 2 ended narrowly, with the top four candidates lingering around 20-30 percent. Victor Perez came out on top with 29.6% and will face Pierre Garcia in a second round of elections.
With a 52% chance of remaining a Democrat based on voting data from the last two general elections, District 2 is the SBOE’s most competitive seat. Posing as an opponent of critical race theory, former teacher Francois LJ to choke Hilda Garza DeShazo in the Republican primary for the seat.
After the Legislature finished drawing the new district maps in 2021, outgoing member Matt Robinson (R-District 7) no longer lived in the district he represented — a move he believes was intentional due to his opposition to the expansion of charter schools. Candidate Julie Pickren crossed the middle line to secure a majority and win the primary on March 1. She will face Dan Hochman in the general election for the open seat.
Since critical race theory remains just one issue among a growing list of educational topics, its influence in the SBOE primaries remains unclear. But one thing is certain: the November 2022 board will see a noticeably different board representing a decidedly more scrupulous electorate than in recent years.