Texans counting on May’s pro-parent momentum to carry conservative school board candidates to a second wave of wins in November were mostly disappointed on Election Day.
During the May local elections, school board candidates backed by powerful parent movements saw big wins across North Texas, knocking out incumbents and district insiders.
In almost every race where parents stepped up to run, voters chose candidates who were outside the local education establishment and who campaigned on respecting parents and putting kids first. Winning candidates promised to focus on literacy over leftist ideology like critical race theory and sexualizing kids, as well as academic and financial transparency and accountability.
Aside from a few successes, similar wins didn’t materialize during the November election.
Voters in Conroe, a suburban city in conservative Montgomery County north of Houston, chose a slate of “Mama Bear” school board candidates who campaigned on empowering parents, improving students’ educational outcomes, and upholding conservative Christian values.
Melissa Dungan won 62 percent of the vote over incumbent Ray Sanders, Tiffany Nelson won an open-seat race with 54 percent, and Misty Odenweller ran unopposed.
Trustee Dale Inman, who declined to run for re-election, expressed enthusiasm about the wins. “Congratulations goes to these three mama bears who were all elected to the Conroe ISD School Board. Now let’s replace some others in two years.”
He added, “And we need to keep them in our prayers. RINOs and the establishment are coming unglued.”
In Princeton ISD, a fast-growing district in Collin County, pro-parent school board candidates John Campbell and Julia Schmoker won a top-two contest over two other candidates, knocking out incumbent trustee Starla Sharpe.
The winners were endorsed by the Collin County Republican Party. They also earned some of the first-ever school board endorsements from the Republican Party of Texas, which has called school board races “the new election battleground in Texas.” Another conservative Republican, trustee Cyndi Darland, was elected to the board in 2020.
In a highly contentious set of school board races in Granbury, pro-family candidates claimed one of three seats on the ballot. The district, located in conservative Hood County, drew national media attention (and threats of lawsuits from liberal groups like the ACLU) for removing sexually explicit books from school libraries. The issue remained a hot topic during the election.
Challenger Karen Lowery won a seat on the board with 58 percent of the vote, ousting incumbent Paula McDonald. Lowery will join conservative trustee Melanie Graft, who in recent months has been isolated by the rest of the trustees for questioning board decisions.
In the other two races on the ballot, challenger Jeff Hastings lost to incumbent Barbara Townsend with 38 percent of the vote, while Terry Louvin garnered 30 percent in a three-way race for an open seat—not enough to beat top finisher Billy Wimberly, part of the establishment-backed slate along with Townsend and McDonald.
All three challengers were endorsed by Rafael Cruz, a conservative pastor and father of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.
In the West Texas city of Midland, one of three pro-family candidates won a seat on the local school board.
Brandon Hodges, lauded by supporters as an advocate for students and parents, beat incumbent John Trischitti with 66 percent of the vote. Hodges ran on a platform of transparency and accountability, fiscal responsibility, and supporting teachers and families.
Challenger Reagan Hignojos lost to incumbent Tommy Bishop with 47 percent of the vote, while Cari McNeil earned 28 percent in a loss to Sara Burleson for an open seat.
Voters in Huffman ISD rejected three school board candidates who were endorsed by the Harris County Republican Party.
Challengers Barbara Carroll and Robert Baten lost to incumbents Dean Warren and Ray Burt, earning 37 percent and 28 percent of the vote, respectively, while Gregory Nason lost an open-seat race to Jared Dagley with 35 percent.
In Klein ISD, Harris County Republican Party-endorsed challenger Kristin Cobb lost a close race to incumbent Cathy Arellano with 47 percent of the vote.
Round Rock ISD
In the controversy-rocked suburban school district of Round Rock, just north of Austin in Williamson County, five seats were on the November ballot. All five current trustees ran for re-election.
Five pro-family candidates challenged the incumbents but failed to win any races, though two trustees were replaced by other opponents.
The challengers ran as a slate backed by the Round Rock One Family PAC and campaigned on recommitting to the “core mission of educating all students.”
Challenger Orlando Salinas took 40 percent of the vote but lost to incumbent Amber Feller, while Christie Slape’s 32 percent wasn’t enough to beat incumbent Amy Weir. Don Zimmerman drew 39 percent, losing to incumbent Tiffanie Harrison.
Another challenger, Jill Farris, did far better than incumbent Cory Vessa, earning 27 percent versus Vessa’s 8 percent, but both lost to Alicia Markum. John Keagy finished second with 29 percent, ahead of incumbent Kevin Freeman, but both lost to “Chuy” Zarate.
The One Family slate was endorsed by the Texas GOP and the 1776 Project PAC, a national political action committee that helps elect school board members who promote pride in American history.
Round Rock’s two conservative trustees, Danielle Weston and Mary Bone, were not on the ballot. Since their election in 2020, the two have clashed with the other five trustees over the superintendent’s unethical behavior and a slew of other issues. They also backed the slate of challengers, hoping to flip the board.
In Tomball, another group of pro-family school board challengers endorsed by the Harris County Republican Party failed to win support from a majority of voters.
Stephanie Lopez, Jennifer Kratky, and Billy Moore each earned about 35-40 percent of the vote, losing to incumbents Michael Pratt, John McStravick, and Mark Lewandowski.
A slate of four parent-movement challengers ran unsuccessfully in Wylie ISD against an establishment they said is out of touch with the core values of local families. The district responded by sending mailers claiming the challengers were spreading “misinformation”—leading to accusations of illegal electioneering using taxpayer resources.
Jill Palmer and Michael Schwerin lost to incumbents Stacie Smith and Jacob Day, earning 38 and 36 percent of the vote, respectively. In open-seat races, Jeffrey Keech and Kevin Brooks received 36 and 39 percent of the vote, losing to opponents Mike Williams and Virdie Montgomery.
The slate was endorsed by the Collin County Republican Party, the Republican Party of Texas, and the 1776 Project PAC.
In May, all 15 Texas candidates endorsed by the 1776 Project PAC won their elections. On November 8, none did.
Despite the disappointing results on Tuesday, conservatives are confident they can continue to make inroads into school boards and are already recruiting more candidates to run in the next round of local elections in May 2023.