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Divisive issues like critical race theory, mask mandates driving interest in local school board elections

Four Houston ISD incumbent trustees are currently locked in run-off battles.

HOUSTON, Texas — Signs from various Houston ISD school board candidates greet voters at the Metropolitan Multi-Services Center on West Gray.

Four incumbents are locked in runoff battles in what are supposed to be non-partisan races.

"There’s no question the tone of these races is not only extreme,"  KHOU political analyst Bob Stein said. "I would even go so far as to say probably what I would call hostile.”

Much of it mirrors contentious rhetoric we’ve seen at recent school board meetings.

Stein said issues driving election interest include face coverings and vaccinations.

"There’s a national trend and that’s clearly built around COVID,” Stein said.

Non-COVID, yet equally divisive, issues like critical race theory and library books are having an impact as well.

"Yes, it’s all tied in together," voter Yvonne Ziegler said. "And we just need to do the right thing and do what’s right for our children.”

Others voters told us they believe the less political school board races are, the better.

“I think it’s become very acrimonious and I’m interested in finding a way that we can teach kids and maybe make politics a little less volatile,” voter Linda Paisley said.

There’s no question controversy has, at least, upped participation in notoriously low turnout elections.

"For school board races and for runoff elections, these turnouts are looking like, from early voting, maybe the highest we’ve seen in several years,” Stein said.

We reached out to the candidates in what is considered to be the most contentious race for HISD District VII between incumbent Anne Sung and challenger Bridget Wade.  

Bridget Wade statement:

“From the beginning, my campaign has been about the children of HISD, getting politics out of the classroom and the board room, and bringing integrity back to the HISD Board of Trustees.  My message has resonated with voters and I am proud that after the Election on November 2nd, I was the top vote getter with over 40% of the vote, and that my opponent, who garnered over 20% of the vote, has endorsed me.  I will continue to vigorously campaign to take my positive message to the voters of HISD District 7 and look forward to Election Night on December 11th.”

Anne Sung statement:

"My strong record on the HISD School Board is confirmed by the overwhelming endorsement by PTO presidents and educators across HISD District 7 and by the Houston Chronicle. While my opponent is better financed, drawing support from extreme partisan sources like Steven Hotze’, our grassroots campaign is powered by hundreds of volunteers.

I remain committed to continuing to reform HISD: strengthening student achievement, from early childhood to college and career; investing more money in the classroom and teachers, and keeping the board focused on what’s important to Houstonians."

Early voting runs through Tuesday, Dec. 7.

Election day is Dec. 11.

Go to www.harrisvotes.com for more information about polling locations and hours.

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