Moms for Liberty Candidates Take a Beating in Some School Races
Moms for Liberty, the right-wing “parental rights” group advocating a hardline anti-woke agenda in America’s schools, had a rough night in Tuesday’s elections for school board seats around the country.
The organization, considered an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, endorsed scores of candidates in school districts in several states from Alaska to North Carolina. But the group’s record backing book bans, opposing racially inclusive lessons in classrooms, and pushing anti-LGBTQ messages seemingly failed to connect with voters in multiple ballots.
A key battleground for MfL was Pennsylvania, where the group endorsed over 50 candidates in some 28 districts. In 2021, Moms for Liberty claimed credit for 33 seats in Bucks County, claiming that eight out of 13 districts “now have a majority of school board members that value parental rights.” Ahead of Tuesday’s election, MfL endorsed only a single candidate in the county—though some of this year’s candidates in Philadelphia suburbs sympathetic to the extreme organization may have feared that an outright endorsement from the extreme organization could scare off moderate voters, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
A “voter guide” from the group earlier this year recommended candidates in five districts but stressed that the messaging was “not an official endorsement.” All five of the Republican candidates in Central Bucks—which has been roiled for years by culture war rows—were included in the guide. But after Tuesday’s vote, the district’s school board was swept by Democrats who won five seats.
Pennridge, another school district in Bucks County, was also closely watched. The GOP-led school board made headlines in July after a curriculum consultant it hired likened his work to a fox in a henhouse during a Moms for Liberty summit in Philadelphia, reportedly telling attendees he wanted to remake schooling for “our side.”
On Tuesday, all five of the school board’s open seats went to Democrats. According to WFMZ, the rejected Republican candidates ran under the name “Protect Pennridge” and had advocated a policy requiring kids to use restrooms and play on sports teams which aligned with their biological sex.
Christopher Bressi, an MfL-backed GOP candidate for the Downingtown Area School District in Chester County accused of inventing an academic “network” to disparage books promoting diversity, lost to a Democrat.
But losses also mounted in other states. As of Wednesday morning, three of four candidates endorsed by the group were trailing in their races in Loudoun County, Virginia, where Democrats were projected to hold the board. MfL candidate Michael Rivera lost by 6 percentage points after all votes had been counted, while endorsed candidate Chris Hodges lost his race to a Democrat. Joe Smith narrowly lost out by just 174 votes. Deana Griffiths, another MfL endorsed candidate, was ahead by a single percentage point in her race in the Ashburn District.
Candidates backed by the group had an even worse showing in Iowa. Linn-Mar district voters rejected three people endorsed by MfL, choosing instead to re-elect two incumbents and two newcomers for the board’s open seats. Laura Steffeck got just 11 percent support, while fellow MfL candidates Kevin Slaman and Tom Law each managed 10 percent.
Another Iowa MfL candidate, Greg Papin, failed to make it onto the Mount Vernon school board, while MfL-endorsed Barclay Woener and Richard David were unsuccessful in their races for the Cedar Rapids school board.
The group’s candidate for the West Des Moines school board, Teri Patrick, also didn’t make the cut with her 9 percent share of the vote. Patrick, who is listed as the Education Chair of the Moms for Liberty chapter in Polk County, in 2021 signed a letter asking for criminal charges to be brought against the school district for allegedly “disseminating pornography to our children” over the availability of two LGBTQ books in school libraries.
A progressive majority was formed on Iowa’s Johnston Community School Board of Education, where MfL-backed candidates Charles Steeele and Michelle Veach lost their races for one of four open at-large seats.
In Minnesota, all four candidates put forward by MfL were wiped out in the race for the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District. None of them managed to attract double-digit support, with voters predominantly favoring three incumbents and one newcomer to the school board.
A pair of MfL candidates fared better in Alaska, with conservative incumbents Kathy McCollum and Ole Larson leading their races, according to unofficial results. But in North Carolina, the MfL-endorsed Theresa Knight failed to secure one of the three seats up for grabs on the Mooresville Graded School District Board of Education.
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