Culture Wars Over Race and Sexuality Dominate Texas School Board Elections

The rapid politicization of school board races across Texas has led to an infusion of money and personal attacks in elections that are ostensibly nonpartisan

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One year after conservative parents began packing school board meetings nationwide to protest lessons on racism and library books dealing with sex, sexual orientation and gender, those issues are dominating May 7 school board elections across Texas, especially in the booming and fast-diversifying suburbs outside Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. 

An NBC News review of school board elections in 20 suburban Texas school districts revealed more than 40 candidates running campaigns focused, at least in part, on culture war issues that have monopolized national politics. In several races, parents who showed up at board meetings last year to argue against COVID-19 safety measures or to read sexually explicit passages from LGBTQ-themed library books are now themselves seeking seats on school boards, often with the backing of newly formed political action committees and endorsements from state Republican officials.

Political observers, meanwhile, are watching these races as a test of whether battles over racism and LGBTQ issues will continue to drive turnout heading into the November midterms.

The intense partisan focus on these races has also led to harsh personal attacks and animosity not typically seen in small-town elections, according to review of social media posts and interviews with a dozen candidates.

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