State Board of Education Members Re-Elected

Incumbents sweep Texas downballot races

The State Board of Education emerged from the election unchanged Tuesday, and Texas Railroad Commission chairman Michael Williams won re-election as incumbents swept races buried further down Texas ballots.

Seven education board members, five Republicans and two Democrats, took mostly comfortable victories and preserved the same panel that often sharply divides between social conservatives and moderates.

Even in such less-heralded races, much was at stake.

Next year the panel will review science curriculum standards for Texas schools. That will likely mean revisiting how students learn about evolution, and may open the door for supporters of intelligent design.

"I'm sure there will be great debate," said Democrat Mavis Knight of Dallas, who won handily over Republican challenger Cindy Werner.

Also staying the same is the railroad commission, which regulates oil and gas industries but has nothing to do with trains or tracks.

Williams campaigned with a huge advantage in experience over Democrat Mark Thompson, a therapist for blind children from Austin who made gas pipeline safety his top issue. Williams had about 52 percent of the vote with more than 80 precincts reporting.

"Thank you for the third time that you have elected a bald guy who wears a bowtie and cowboy boots and sent him back to the Railroad Commission of Texas," Williams, 49, told supporters at a Republican rally in Austin after winning another another six-year term on the three-person panel.

Williams, who was first elected to fill an unexpired term in 2000, was hardly the only longtime incumbent staying put on an influential state panel.

Democrat Mary Helen Berlanga, who has spent 26 years on the education board, was re-elected to her South Texas district with a win over Republican Peter Johnston. Berlanga had about 57 percent of the vote with more than three-quarters of precincts reporting.

GOP member David Bradley, a board member from Beaumont since 1996, beat Democrat Laura Ewing. Republican Gail Lowe won decisively over Democratic challenger Edra Bogle, a retired English professor.

Three Republicans easily clinched victory without Democratic challengers: Terri Leo of Spring, Barbara Cargill of The Woodlands and Patricia Hardy of Fort Worth.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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