Sunday, February 07, 2010
Ken Mercer is one of the more ridiculous members of the religious right wing of the Texas State Board of Education that is doing its best to destroy education in the public schools of the state. The good news is that Mercer is facing a strong challenge in the Republican primary this year:
Ken Mercer and Tim Tuggey have a lot in common.
Mercer, the incumbent District 5 State Board of Education representative, and Tuggey, the attorney-lobbyist trying to take his seat, both consider themselves conservatives. ...
They even agree about the meaning of their primary campaign, that it's a battle to define the modern Texas Republican Party. That's where the arguments begin.
To hear Mercer tell it, Tuggey is a Republican in name only, a closet liberal who has contributed heavily to Democratic candidates in recent years.
Tuggey concedes he's contributed to a few Democrats (including Congressmen Charlie Gonzalez and Ciro Rodriguez), but argues that he — not Mercer — is the true conservative in the race. He describes local control of education as a core conservative issue, and says Mercer and his Board of Education colleagues have abandoned that principle in favor of "micromanaging" public-education curriculum in Texas with a Christian-right agenda. ...
Before his stint on the Board of Education, Mercer served one term in the Texas House. In November 2004, he lost a hotly contested re-election bid to David Leibowitz by 498 votes. Leibowitz raised nearly $700,000 for that campaign, nearly twice as much as Mercer.
This year, Mercer again finds himself facing a formidable fundraiser. Over the last six months of 2009, Tuggey collected more than $60,000, compared with just more than $8,000 for Mercer. Tuggey's contributors include high-powered San Antonio business leaders such as car dealer B.J. "Red" McCombs, Spurs owner Peter Holt, banker Tom Frost, construction contractor H.B. Zachry Jr. and H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt.
Tuggey has also earned the endorsement of the Texas Parent PAC, whose largest contributor is Butt. The organization formed in 2005 as an attempt to counteract San Antonio hospital-bed tycoon Dr. James Leininger's push for private-school voucher programs. Over the past five years, Butt has contributed more than $1.1 million to the political action committee, according to Texas Ethics Commission reports.
"Tim Tuggey brings a wealth of experience and knowledge and wisdom," said Carolyn Boyle, chairwoman of the PAC. "He is very open and inclusive, and listens to parents."
According to local contractor Mike Beldon, business leaders have lined up behind Tuggey because they're exasperated with what they view as the injection of religion into public-education debates.
"There's great concern everywhere about the State Board of Education," Beldon said. "I think the pendulum has swung hugely in the ultra-right direction, and people are looking for moderation. And Tim is enormously well-respected."