School board elections, which are usually held with drowsiness and low turnout, may be Florida’s most hotly contested elections this year.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is far ahead of his Democratic rival Charlie Christ. Election campaigns for legislatures as well as state legislatures, similarly uncompetitive, thanks in large part to a politicized restructuring process tilted control to the Republican Party.
That, combined with conservative efforts to focus on education policy that began during the COVID-19 pandemic, has put bipartisan school boards at the center of the debate.
DeSantis took an unprecedented step in favor of the candidate, Christo followed in his footsteps and later chose the leader of the teachers’ union to join the ticket. Parent groups such as the conservative “Moms for Liberty” and the progressive “Florida Freedom to Read Project” have also joined the fray, endorsing and donating to their respective nominee lists.
After the first election round on August 23, several constituencies across the state advanced to a run-off election in which the top two vote-getters from a pool of up to six candidates were selected.
Here are eight races to watch.
Indian River County District 2, Cindy Gibbs vs. Jacqueline Rosario
In this race, Christo-backed candidate Gibbs faces DeSantis-backed incumbent Jacqueline Rosario. The Rosary has the upper hand heading into Tuesday. Her 46% of her voters voted for her in her primary. Gibbs’ share of the vote was her 26%.
Both candidates come from educational backgrounds, but feel just as opposed to the presence of partisan politics in school board elections as the gubernatorial candidate who supported them.
“I wish there were no politics associated with school right now,” Gibbs said. told TC Palm in September“My focus with this campaign is to engage school boards so they can continue to make decisions about what is best for children with multiple topics at hand. increase.”
Rosario is proud of her support from the governor, saying, “He has a very strong stance on education … and it just so happens that I agree with his education agenda,” she said. .
“The fact that my opponent is backed by Christo doesn’t affect me at all. It never makes me nervous. There is no rivalry between Christo and Governor DeSantis.”
But last month, the partnership with DeSantis took a dark turn. Wes Davis, his director of the statewide field for the LGBTQ rights group Equality Florida, linked his DeSantis rhetoric about transgender youth to his cousin’s suicide in a widely shared tweet.
The DeSantis Administration has repeatedly attacked transgender children and teens and falsely identified those who support them, including their parents, as child abusers.
And on Friday, the Florida Medical Commission — a group of doctors appointed by the governor — Voted to ban gender-affirming care under 18 in Floridadespite all major medical associations supporting care such as treating gender dysphoria, Statistics Show Transgender Youth Are at Higher Suicide Risklargely due to social stigma.
“Last weekend my transgender cousin lost her life. She was 17 years old and a senior in Indian River County. She pointed out the shame, pain and harassment of transgender existence,” he said. In response to Rosario’s tweet thanking DeSantis for his support, Davis said. increase.
Pinellas County District 6, Brian Martin vs. Stephanie Meyer
Meyer, who didn’t endorse DeSantis but echoed his point, won a small majority in August with about 47% of the vote. The state Democrat-backed opposition, Brian Martin, got about 39%.
speak to Tampa Bay Timesthe candidates agreed that politics does not belong in the classroom.
Meyer echoed DeSantis and Moms for Liberty, saying that “political movements and ideologies,” such as instruction on LGBTQ issues, should be kept out of schools. But for Martin, a new state law banning such instruction overshadows the importance of supporting teachers and students.
“We have a positive, education-promoting message,” he said. Times“I believe public education is a nonpartisan issue. I am happy to fight for all of us.”
Support for public education itself is controversial. Some critics question whether the ultimate goal of DeSantis and his supporters is the privatization of education. Among the most notable examples they point to: At the first Moms for Liberty summit in July, nearly 500 participants from across the country called for the abolition of the ministry of education that had once overseen the former secretary of education. cheered for Betsy DeVos of
Pinellas County District 3, Keisha Benson vs. Dawn Peters
This race is as partisan as the others, but with an extreme twist. Critics of Peters, who are not endorsed by DeSantis but align with the Republican point, pointed to posts on his social media that show Peters endorsing the conspiracy theory. according to Times.
She shared a tweet calling the moon landing, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the COVID-19 pandemic “the three major hoaxes of the modern world.” Another photo shows her taking a pledge to support QAnon, an online conspiracy theory that believes a group of Satanic pedophiles conspired against former President Donald Trump.
Peters initially Times The post was genuine and said people should “think for themselves”, but after the story was published, She wrote on Facebook that she believed 9/11 was real and didn’t follow QAnon..
Benson stays away from the noise, Times She “wasn’t going to race on the basis of beating other candidates”.
Brevard County District 2, Erin Dunne vs. Gene Trent
Book bans and restroom access are key to this race in conservative Brevard County.
As Moms for Liberty challenges student access to nearly 40 books, Dunne, a Democrat, Said Florida today Trent, a Republican, believes more needs to be done to speed up the process.
There is also bathroom access and they are along the party line. Trent believes facilities should be segregated by the gender assigned at birth, but Dunn says that federal antidiscrimination laws require schools to allow students to use bathrooms and changing rooms that match their gender identity. It emphasizes that it is necessary to allow
Dunne received the most votes in the August primary. About 34%. Trent defeated his two conservative candidates, placing him in second place with about 30% of the vote. Despite her lead, the setup poses problems for Dan. Supporters of her two defeated Republicans, Courtney Lewis and Sean Oberdorf, are likely to back Trent.
Whether Dunn wins or not, the school board will have a 3 out of 5 Republican majority.
James Washington vs. Al Hernandez, Pasco County District 1
The race includes DeSantis-backed Hernandez and Washington, with support from Equality Florida and the local teachers’ union.
Hernandez reiterates conservative points and calls for an end to “anti-American” education in schools, but gives no example of such teaching. according to Times.
His supporters have called Washington an unproven pedophile — an increasingly common attack by conservatives against pro-LGBTQ people in Florida.
Hernandez didn’t get the 50% he needed to outright win the August primary. Washington was far behind with about 26% of the vote.
Polk County District 7, Jill Sessions vs. Lisa Miller
Outside money was poured into this local race to help Sessions in her bid to sack incumbent Miller. according to lakeland ledger.
Ahead of the August primaries, a Virginia-based political group released an ad calling for an education culture war. Accusing Miller and fellow incumbents of teaching “trans ideology” and critical race theory, he promoted Sessions along with two other candidates he won in August. Another ad said it “looks and sounds a lot like something you might run for governor or Congressman. ledger OK.
The paper’s analysis found that the ad could be traced to Florida Republicans, supporters of charter school voucher programs, and groups with financial backing and ties outside Polk County. Meanwhile, Miller received support from the Tallahassee-based teachers’ union statewide.
Miller has the upper hand heading into Tuesday. About 42% of voters backed her in August, compared to about 37% for Sessions.
Volusia County District 1, Al Bouie vs. Jamie Haynes
Both candidates cited school safety as a top priority, according to Daytona Beach News Journal.
But with DeSantis endorsing incumbent Haynes, the campaign could serve as a litmus test for the success of the so-called “parental rights” message pushed by conservatives.
In August, Haynes won 43% of the vote and Vui 25%. The rivalry between the two contenders had already begun in her 2018, when Haynes beat Bouillet 52% to 48% for her.
Lee County District 1, Kathy Fanny vs. Sam Fisher
After Hurricane Ian devastated Lee County in September, both candidates rearranged their priorities to focus on reopening, but the race was the result of the partisan politics that permeated Florida’s school board elections. We keep some of the nuances.
DeSantis endorsed Fisher in August and was featured prominently on the attorney and business owner’s campaign website. His speech invokes parental rights and Critical Race Theory, an academic framework that examines the role of race in American institutions. Not taught in Florida schools.
Fanny is now retired after nearly 40 years of teaching.she said to Fort Myers News Press Her top priority is improving reading and math proficiency, and Lee County schools are “in crisis,” she said.
Fisher has the advantage heading into Tuesday. He received about 44% of the vote against Fanny’s 24%.
Kathryn Varn is a statewide enterprise reporter for the Florida Gannett/USA Today Network. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 238-5315.
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