State Board of Education candidate Thomas Ratliff picked up an endorsement today from House Appropriations Chair Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie). The moderate Republican is challenging SBOE member Don McLeroy, the controversial, ultra-conservative former chair who famously pushed for schools to teach the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution.
In the press release, Pitts said Ratliff "will bring a fresh perspective" to the board.
Pitts is the second big name to endorse Ratliff — the first being Brian McCall (R-Plano). Pitts and McCall were both active in the ABCs — Anybody But Craddicks — a more moderate Republican contingent that helped to unseat hard-right Speaker Tom Craddick in January in favor of the more moderate Joe Straus. Since the state board made headlines for its ultra-conservative bloc, the representatives' support for a more mainstream Republican isn't shocking.
McLeroy doesn't yet have any endorsements, but he says that it won't be long before he has his list. "I haven’t got around to it, but I’m definitely going to," he said.
"I should have plenty of endorsements," he explained. He's probably right — he's well-known among Christian conservatives, who represent an energetic political force.
McLeroy can also count on his colleague Ken Mercer for backup. Mercer is also part of the Christian conservative bloc that McLeroy has led, and the two men have similar primary challengers — moderate, Republican lobbyists. Mercer is running against lobbyist Tim Tuggey in the fifth district. During Wednesday's committee of the full board meeting, Mercer found a variety of opportunities for pointing out why lobbyists were not suitable candidates for the board.