“If masks work, wouldn’t everyone choose to wear them?”
The pretzel logic of Caroline Walter’s question, which she tweeted in September, might have been enough to topple her as a top candidate in this year’s elections for Houston Independent School District trustee seats.
But now Walter is headed to a Dec. 11 runoff against incumbent Sue Deigaard in one of the two wealthier, westside districts of a school system in which three-quarters of its 197,000 students are classified as poor.
Challenger Bridget Wade is in a runoff against incumbent Anne Sung in the adjacent, other wealthy part of the school district.
Wade and Walter have much in common.
Both have been endorsed in the officially non-partisan races by the Harris County Republican Party and other conservative groups. Both maintain campaign websites that brim with neutral rhetoric about how they are moms who just want the best education available for their kids.
Yet both are fairly open about their conservative, if not radical, stands on flashpoint issues.
That’s right — the national strategy by conservatives to inflame and motivate their grassroots voters over school board policies — prevention of COVID spread, “critical race theory” and modern-day school library books — has come to the state’s largest school district and the state’s largest city.
And it has worked to a degree, at least through the Nov.. 2 general election, as Walter was among the challengers who just barely denied incumbent Deigaard a majority and Wade ran first against incumbent Sung.
The strategy recently paid off for far-right school board candidates in Cypress Fairbanks ISD when candidates ousted longtime incumbents by playing on fears of “critical race theory” and touting their conservative and religious values. Another candidate prevailed in Klein ISD by employing the same strategy. This appears to be a nationwide strategy by conservatives to take over school boards and cultivate a farm team of candidates for higher office.
The Harris County Democratic Party is backing the incumbents in the runoffs.
Some of challenger Wade’s pronouncement’s rival challenger Walter’s in their distinctly inscrutable, yet clearly right-wing, nature.
Asked by patch.com to identify the most pressing HISD issue, Wade responded:
“Lack of transparent understanding of the needs of students, families and the city. The Board of Trustees and the Texas Board of Education have forgotten how to talk to the citizens.”
On distinguishing herself from her first-round opponents, Wade started with, “I am a believer in a God-given agency. I would like to see the family have more opportunity and engagement.”
Wade told ivoterguide.com she strongly agreed that “human life begins at conception.”
Of course, none of those statements appear on Wade’s campaign website, just like challenger Walter’s over-the-top tweets aren’t even hinted at on hers.
Some of the Twitter output from @carolinewalter3 :
“Mask mandates in schools is (sic) tyranny.”
“Masks may kill. We will find out in a few years.”
“Mask wearing to prevent COVID is not based on science.”
As for Wade’s stand on mask mandates, this is from the Houston Chronicle:
“In a statement issued in August about the district’s mask mandate, Wade said parents, not trustees, should decide whether their children wear masks. She urged the board ‘to get back to the business it was elected to do and stay out of these partisan political battles.’ “
Wade has not heeded her own words. Partisan political battles are in store in these HISD elections until the polls close on Dec. 11.