It was a sad day -- for reporters at least -- when North Richland Hills' Lady Theresa Thombs lost her bid for a seat on the State Board of Education. Between her outrageously padded resume (she claims to be an "international ambassador" and carrier of "diplomatic papers"), her seeming inability to throw punches that land above the belt, and the curious fact that our Unfair Park post about her stalled at 666 Facebook shares, she promised to be a rich vein of material for however long as her candidacy gave her a shred of relevance.
Thombs, alas, garnered a mere 7 percent of the vote in the Republican primary, meaning she's back to singing at the Olympics or getting knighted by foreign royalty or whatever it is she does when she's not running for office.
But just because the sideshow has packed up doesn't mean the main event is over. Her two primary opponents, incumbent Pat Hardy and challenger Eric Mahroum, are headed to a May 27 runoff for the District 11 seat, which covers all of Parker County and parts of Dallas and Tarrant County, and voters still face a distinct choice.
Hardy is the establishment candidate, an experienced educator with a 12-year record of service on the SBOE. Mahroum is the Tea Party upstart, a restaurant manager (until recently he was a regional trainer for Chuck E. Cheese) intent on fundamentally reforming how Texas does education.
Dan Quinn, a spokesman for the SBOE watchdog Texas Freedom Network, says both candidates are extremely conservative.
Hardy "brags about being a Goldwater supporter in 1964," Quinn says, long before being a Republican in Texas was cool and has sided with the SBOE's social conservatives on issues like the development of the social studies curriculum.
Quinn says Mahroum is even further to the right. Though he has refrained from making embarrassingly retrograde statements about education, he's endorsed by what Quinn calls a "who's who of the fringe right." Mahroum claims the endorsement of former SBOE Chair Don McLeroy, an unabashed supporter of teaching creationism, and local Tea Party stars like Alice Linahan and Julie McCarty.
To Quinn, this suggests Mahroum will probably vote in lock-step with the board's diminished but still powerful ultra-conservative wing of the board.
Hardy, Quinn says, is "pretty damn conservative. Having said that she's always been a strong supporter of science and teaching real facts about evolution rather than creationist nonsense."
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Mahroum's election wouldn't swing the balance of power on the board toward creationism, a fight that seems to be on the wane anyways, and it will have no effect on the development of social studies curricula, which will be approved before he gets into office.
The first litmus test will be the development of sex and health education standards. The question there will be what, if anything, should be taught besides abstinence. Do you tell Texas schoolkids not to have sex and leave it at that? Or do you acknowledge reality and go on to explain the ins and outs of birth control and STD prevention?
For that fight, Quinn thinks that Hardy is more likely than Mahroum to take the latter approach.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.