The Bannon Local Takeover Strategy at Work in the Current Elections
Notice: The WeBelieveWeVote.com Primary Voter Guide 2023 is now available. WBWV’s “alignment rating” is a strong indicator of adherence to the latest themes of the Republican culture wars, not an indicator of the Christian values with which I was raised. A high “alignment rating” is a red flag. Use WBWV as a guide to Republican extremism.
School boards are the new culture war battlefields. The strife is showing up on the local ballots you just received for the August 1 Primary Election. Until recently, it was rare in Spokane County for a seat as a school board director to attract more than two candidates. As a result, primary election ballots in Spokane County rarely featured more than one school board director contest. In striking contrast, the Spokane County Voters’ Pamphlet for the upcoming primary election contains fourteen pages of candidates school board director positions on six different school boards. That’s nearly a third of the publication. We who support public education ignore this at our peril.
Public school board “director” (member) positions are unpaid, time-consuming, unglamorous positions helping to manage the big picture of budgets and administration of public schools. Historically, school board director positions attract civic-minded individuals with a strong interest in supporting the mission of public education, not culture warriors intent on imposing an extremist ideology.
The right wing effort to take control of school boards is fueled by a confluence of motivations often ginned up by fear-mongering propaganda. The takeover movement received a significant boost during the pandemic by feeding on manufactured anger over vaccines and masks. Those motivators have now morphed into some combination of opposing “comprehensive sex education”, “Critical Race Theory”, DEI (Diversity Equity Inclusion), SEL (Social Emotional Learning), and opposing any support for LGBTQ+ youth. Support for book bans may be subtle or overt. Softer ideological signaling is couched as support for “parental rights”, and “school choice”.
With the waning of the red flag issues of masks and vaccine mandates it has become more challenging to sort out the school board director candidates motivated by hot-button, ginned-up issues from those with a genuine interest in fostering public education. Nipping off these ideologues in the current primary election ought to be easier than dealing with them in the November General Election—but the sheer number of candidates in some of these races makes that daunting. To that end, one group has searched through campaign materials and provided a rating system to identify “problematic candidates” for director positions. Limiting the list to Spokane County and only those who appear in the primary election (for now), the major red flags pop up in the Medical Lake School District. Indeed, the Spokane County Voters’ Pamphlet lists seventeen primary candidates for a mere four seats. Seven (listed below) of these seventeen primary candidates are considered “problematic” based on publicly available materials.
Here’s a map of the Medical Lake School District:
Consider contacting people you know in the Medical Lake School District with the suggestion NOT TO VOTE for these candidates in the primary. There are better candidates available in all but the Director District No. 1 race. In that race I would favor Spillman over Johnson based on this Spokesman article.
In the Cheney School District No. 5 position Ivan Khala is similarly identified as “problematic” on more subtle grounds. Mr. Khala is the single interviewee for this position on a podcast listed on “Right Spokane Perspective” (June 20), a Facebook group that backs folks like Mike Fagan and Rod Higgins.
When the November General Election comes these listings of problematic candidates for school board director positions will expand—and I will try to address them.
When a school board majority is taken over by ideologues, the consequences can be grim, costly, and time-consuming. Voters in the Richland School District (Tri-cities) have gone to the trouble mounting a recall of three school board directors, including Semi Bird, now a far right Republican candidate for Washington governor in 2024. The recall appears on this August 1 Primary ballot. Recall proponents had to first run the gauntlet all the way to the Washington State Supreme Court, where their recall charges were deemed factually and legally sufficient. Then they gathered 18,000 signatures to place the recall on the ballot—a major, all-hands-on-deck effort.
In neighboring Idaho a special recall election will be held on August 29th in the West Bonner County School District (including Priest River, Priest Lake, and Blanchard) after a 3-2 board majority of far right ideologues gained control in a sleepy election. They promptly appointed Branden Durst, a proponent of dismantling public schools, “an unqualified serial political entrepreneur and self-described ‘Christian populist’ who had previously been subject to a domestic violence protection order”, as the district’s superintendent. Read more about Mr. Durst here.
Pay attention to school board elections this year—or risk the kind of strife and threat to your community’s educational opportunities that are demonstrated by these recalls.
Keep to the high ground,