All six Florida school board candidates endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, R., won their race on Tuesday and Acesparks Digital spoke with five of the six candidates who credited the governor’s endorsement for their victories.
During his victory speech, he said voters “protected the rights of rents” and “rejected woke ideology”.
DeSantis’ pro-rent mantra appeared to manifest itself through school board victories after he endorsed 30 school board candidates that aligned with his agenda. Six more school board victories were added on Tuesday night bringing his record on school board endorsements to 24 wins.
Although school board seats are non-partisan, DeSantis embarked on a statewide “Education Agenda Tour” in advance of the Aug. 23 primary to tout his Non-artisan education board endorsements. Elected officials typically did not get involved in school board elections until the recent movement of rents protesting against COVID restrictions like school lock-downs and progressive curriculum.
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Some candidates were not backed by DeSantis, but were still victorious with the help of rental rights groups and political action committees. One prominent group was Moms For Liberty, which played a major role in the rental rights movement across the country and endorsed a slate of 12 candidates in Florida. Additionally, the 1776 C which opposes critical race theory curriculum in schools, endorsed 49 candidates in 21 counties throughout the sunshine state.
Five of the six DeSantis-backed school board candidates in the runoff elections Tuesday faced opponents backed by the Florida Democratic Party. All five of those DeSantis-endorsed candidates won their races.
Indian River County District 2 school board member Jackie Rosario who won a re-election bid said DeSantis supported rents at a time when their voices were being “snuffed out” at school board meetings.
“His endorsement helped tremendously,” Rosario said. “I know my opponent was endorsed by Charlie Crist and that didn’t get anywhere, so, it all depends on who the elected official is.”
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“It’s my belief elected officials chose to get involved with local school board races because of some of the sensitive topics that were being taught to elementary students behind a closed door of the classroom,” Manatee County District 2 school board candidate Cindy Spray said.
Spray who was endorsed by DeSantis and Moms For Liberty said she “would support elected officials to stay engaged with school districts all across our country.”
“I don’t think they had a choice but to stand up and support candidates who shared the same values,” she added.
“I absolutely believe, elected officials have the right to exercise their First Amendment right and endorse candidates that share their values,” Lee County District 1 school board candidate Sam Fisher said, who won more than 51% of the vote.
Fisher, who was also endorsed by Moms For Liberty, added that DeSantis’ endorsement was beneficial to his campaign.
sco County District 1 school board candidate Al Hernandez said that “elected officials being involved in school races, or any races is an easy way for voters to have a general idea of what those candidates stand for or what kind of people they are.”
“With these non-rtisan races, it’s sometimes difficult for voters to get a good idea about who the candidate is or what they believe in. These camigns typically don’t have the same money as higher ballot races, and so we aren’t able to get our message out as easily,” Hernandez said after beating his Democrat-backed opponent James Washington with 65% of the vote.
He continued, “Endorsements are like a cheat sheet for voters. If you like a rticular elected official, and you trust their judgment, their endorsement means a lot. It’s not a substitute for doing your homework on a candidate, but it’s a solid start. .”
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Volusia County District 1 school board candidate Jamie Haynes won re-election with the endorsement by DeSantis and Moms for Liberty over Democrat-endorsed Albert L. Bouie.
Among the winners, one of the candidates he endorsed Hendry County District 4 school board member Stephanie Bussin, is leading her race with 13 more votes, however, the outcome has not been officially declared since the small margin could trigger a recount.
“This was really a rough race and I don’t know if I would have gotten this far without DeSantis’ support,” Bussin, who was also backed by Moms For Liberty, said.
The canvassing board will still review signature discrepancies and voting challenges to see if the current 0.06% advantage Bussin currently maintains falls below the 0.05% automatic recount threshold. If so, there will be a machine recount on Tuesday, November 15th at noon. Both candidates would be invited to attend the recount.
Three other candidates who did not get a DeSantis endorsement won with backing from Moms For Liberty such as Pinellas County school board candidates Stephanie Meyers and Dawn Peters.
In Brevard County, Moms for Liberty candidate Gene Trent told Acesparks Digital that DeSantis did not endorse any candidate after the primary.
“He stayed out of our primary race due to the fact that we had 4 candidates of which 3 were conservative.”
American Federation for Children Senior Fellow Corey DeAngelis reacted to the feat of DeSantis-backed school board candidates.
“His resounding victory Tuesday night proves that supporting education freedom isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s also a political winner. For far too long in K-12 education, the only influential special interest groups were the unions representing the employees in the system. But now, the kids have a union of their own: their rents.”
The victories underscore the phenomenon of rents across the country paying closer attention to school boards by challenging progressive curricula and contesting books they deemed inappropriate.
DeSantis’ education agenda consists of keeping schools open and rejecting lockdowns, educating instead of indoctrinating, rejecting the use of critical race theory in the curriculum, and guaranteeing the right of renters to curriculum transparency. He also supports increasing teachers, expanding workforce development, and supporting robust civics education.