Mary Lou Bruner is also the front-runner in a Republican primary runoff Tuesday for a seat on the influential state education board — a nomination the 69-year-old nearly clinched outright despite a lengthy social media history of posting about conspiracy theories and fringe screeds. In March, she fell just two percentage points shy of avoiding a runoff altogether.
Her election would be stunning, even given that the Texas State Board of Education was chaired until 2011 by a creationist who tried weakening evolution lessons in science classrooms. The 15-member board that sets curriculum standards for 5.2 million Texas schoolchildren has more recently fought over whether history textbooks promote Islam or contain anti-American biases.
Bruner has called climate change a hoax concocted by Karl Marx and suggested that the federal health care overhaul is a part of a government plot to reduce the U.S. population, according to since-deleted Facebook posts captured by the Texas Freedom Network, a left-leaning watchdog of the state education board.
“If she wins it would be embarrassing for the state of Texas because it would again make us look like an educational backwater,” said Dan Quinn, spokesman for Texas Freedom Network.
Anthony Bruner, Mary Lou Bruner’s husband, responded to an interview request from The Associated Press on Monday directed to his wife by emailing a link to a Dallas television appearance. Mary Lou Bruner appeared alongside her opponent, Republican Keven Ellis, who on Monday said her victory would make Texas “take a step backward almost to the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ days,” a reference to the books about the pioneering Ingalls family set in the 19th century.
Bruner didn’t disavow her Facebook posts in the interview with Dallas television station WFAA.
“When I wrote those things, I wasn’t even intending to run for the State Board of Education. I had no idea that I would,” she said. “I was actually calling people and trying to get them to run — people with my values — and I couldn’t find anyone. They kept saying, ‘Well, why don’t you run?'”
Bruner is running in a staunchly conservative East Texas district that would make her an automatic favorite to win in November over the Democratic nominee, who is a professor at Stephen F. Austin University.
But Bruner’s momentum may be slipping. An influential tea party group this month withdrew their endorsement after Bruner rattled off a series of inaccurate statements during a meeting with school superintendents, including that half of Texas’ schoolchildren are in special education programs. Bruner told WFAA she misspoke and meant to say almost half of Texas students are in “one special program or another.”