"This was a grassroots effort. ... I was blessed to have the endorsement of every conservative group,” Mercer said.
Tuggey out-raised Mercer overall, but in their last reports, Mercer reported $22,000 to Tuggey's $21,400. The race has the attention of the San Antonio business community, most of whom spoke in support of Tuggey, a lawyer-lobbyist who has campaigned on de-politicizing the board. Auto magnate Red McCombs and H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt have both sent big checks to the Tuggey campaign.
"We’re obviously disappointed," Tuggey said, "but we felt good about enhancing the issues on education."
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Since Mercer trailed in fundraising for most of the election, many speculated that he would get a last-minute infusion of money from James Leininger, the San Antonio businessman who came to Mercer's rescue in 2006 — but that check never came.
Mercer's election in 2006 gave power to the controversial Christian conservative bloc that has controlled the board over the last few years. Mercer and his allies have supported inserting the “weaknesses” of evolution into the science curriculum and removing Sen. Ted Kennedy from the social studies list. Mercer ousted Republican Dan Montgomery, whose politics looked a lot like Tuggey's.
The bloc counts seven members, including Mercer, and on controversial issues, they rely on swing vote Rick Agosto to have a majority. Since Agosto is not seeking re-election, a Mercer loss could diminish the group's power. The same is true if former SBOE chairman Don McLeroy loses in District 9.
Mercer has hammered Tuggey throughout the race on everything from his lobbying ties, to 41,000 he gave to Democrats and Democratic causes. One Mercer supporter even questioned Tuggey's patriotism, pointing to work his former law firm did for a Saudi Arabian company. Tuggey has fought back with allegations that Mercer and his Christian conservative allies are bringing private issues into the public realm.
"I think it’s fairly straightforward," Tuggey said of his loss. "I think he ran an effective campaign on some of my history ... some of the Democratic money I’ve given and made that an issue effectively."
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