Home Houston Republican-Backed Democrat Runs for Houston’s School Board

Republican-Backed Democrat Runs for Houston’s School Board

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Screenshot from @gretchen4hisd
Screenshot from @gretchen4hisd

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?

Left: Screenshot of Gretchen Himsl's Candidate Facebook page Right: Screenshot of The "C" Club's endorsement
Left: Screenshot of Gretchen Himsl’s Candidate Facebook page Right: Screenshot of The “C” Club’s endorsement

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%.

Gretchen Himsl's statement
Gretchen Himsl’s statement

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.

Screenshot of TEXAS VAN, Gretchen Himsl voted Republican during primaries, courtesy of source that is not HCDP
Screenshot of Texas VAN, Gretchen Himsl voted Republican during primaries, courtesy of source that is not HCDP

“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.”

DNC partisan scores of candidates written by Odus Eubagharu, communication director of HCDP, because policy says they cannot screenshot the website and send it out. If you want to review it and have VAN access visit, votebuilder.com.
DNC partisan scores of candidates written by Odus Evbagharu, communication director of HCDP, because policy says they cannot screenshot the website and send it out. If you want to review it and have VAN access visit, votebuilder.com.

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.

Related: Houston Teacher Running to Fight State Takeover of Schools

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.

If you want more independent reporting like this, please support Sam and TATM with a donation– Every $1 helps us grow!

 

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Sam Oser

Sam is editor-in-chief for #TATM, and calls Houston, Texas her home. In her down time she likes to climb trees, eat cheese, and keep an eye on local establishment.

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