Due to poor testing scores with State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR), Houston Independent School District’s (HISD) is on the brink of being taken over by Texas Education Agency (TEA). Should TEA takeover the district, House Bill 1842 – a bill pushed by Texas Republicans – will come into play and replace democratically elected officials with managers and/or shut down public schools and turn them into charters.
Gretchen Himsl is running for Houston’s District I School Board Trustee as a self-identified Democrat, however, she has voted Republican, has been endorsed by a conservative organization, The “C” Club, has Republican donors, and has hired Christopher Busby, president of the Houston Young Republicans, as the volunteer coordinator for her campaign.
Why is Himsl running as a self-identified Democrat?
Part of the reason is that 1) she can and 2) the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has partisan scores for candidates, and Himsl is at 94.7%.
Himsl has worked for Democratic elected officials and has actively donated to Democrats, so the DNC considers how active a candidate has been within the party in the past to help determine the partisan score regardless of who the candidate surrounds themselves with during the campaign and regardless of how conservative and pro-testing and pro-charter the Republican donors are.
Essentially, if you haven’t been politically active within the Democratic party in some capacity or actively donated to Democrats, the DNC partisan score will rate you lower. So if you’re an everyday person wanting to run for a position and haven’t had experience or done much donating, especially within the party, your score will be low.
“When I became the Party Chair there was no process to endorse in non-partisan races. We have created a process. We look at the voter file created by the [DNC] that tells us their partisan score and their voter history,” Lillie Schechter, chairwoman of Harris County Democratic Party (HCDP), regarding the vetting process. “We also look at how they identify. The Party passionately supports and will fight to defend the Democratic Process, without preference for or favoritism toward any particular Democratic candidate.”
Candidates do not file as their party, they file to run for the race, and self-identify which party they represent. This is a non-partisan race, so candidates are able to file to run for a race and randomly choose what party they represent.
Because there are two self-identified Democrats (Himsl and Elizabeth Santos) running for Houston’s District I School Board Trustee, HCDP will not endorse either candidate.
HCDP did show support on their Facebook page for Pretta VanDible Stallworth in the runoff election for Houston Community College System (HCCS) Trustee District IX because her incumbent is a self-identified Republican.
One Democrat and one Republican in the race? HCDP will vocally stand behind the Democrat. Two self-identified Democrats? HCDP will not chime in.
Himsl has a solid past of working with Democrats and and donating to Democrats, but in an age where we have seen donors pulling elected official’s strings, her Republican donors, her messaging, and choice of campaign staff raise questions whether or not her actions as a school board trustee writing policy that effects teachers and students will be Democratic or Republican driven.
But hey, remember folks: Vote blue no matter who.
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