Skip to main content

SBOE 9: McLeroy Loses Seat to Ratliff

With all precincts reporting, State Board of Education incumbent Don McLeroy has lost to challenger Thomas Ratliff in the race for District 9 by a razor thin margin — less than 1,000 votes.

Republicans Thomas Ratliff (left) and Don McLeroy prepare to square off for a State Board of Education primary.

With all precincts reporting, State Board of Education incumbent Don McLeroy has lost to challenger Thomas Ratliff in the race for District 9 by a razor thin margin — less than 1,000 votes.

McLeroy, R-Bryan, has been a vocal advocate for Christian conservatism, and he rose to national prominence while he was chair of the board during debates over evolution in the science curriculum. Ratliff has campaigned on a platform of taking politics out of education.

McLeroy acknowledged early in the night that his odds weren't great. "I think I lost," he said. "These things don't swing 2,000 votes."

The race has garnered significant attention: In addition to McLeroy’s name recognition, Ratliff is the son of well-known former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff.

Ratliff led in fundraising through most of the race, but in their eight-day reports, McLeroy raised $13,502 compared to Ratliff's $12,656. McLeroy pulled further ahead with a last-minute $5,000 check from homebuilder Bob Perry, a major donor to Republicans.

McLeroy, who’s held his seat since 1998, sounded nervous about the race yesterday. “I’m scared!” he said of his chances.

In the last few years, the board has gained a widespread reputation for controversy as they’ve debated everything from inserting the “weaknesses” of evolution into the science curriculum to removing Sen. Ted Kennedy from the social studies list.

Seven board members, including McLeroy, have been largely successful in pushing for a more socially conservative agenda. On controversial issues, they rely on swing vote Rick Agosto to have a majority. Since Agosto is not seeking re-election, a Ratliff win wouldn't just mean the bloc lost its spokesperson — it could kill the group's power. The same is true if Ken Mercer loses in District 5.

McLeroy has already seen some of his power ebb: The state Senate took away his chairmanship last year after the board’s debates on evolution earned the national spotlight.

Our full primary results are available on the 2010 elections landing page.

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.

Quality journalism doesn't come free

Yes, I'll donate today