BEND — Usually, college board races in Central Oregon are a quieter affair than Metropolis Council or state Legislature campaigns.
The elections are in Might, not November, and through odd-numbered years. Turnout is decrease, as most individuals don’t get as fired up about who’s going to be on the college board as a lot as they do about who’s going to characterize them in Salem. And the race is nominally nonpartisan — no Republican or Democrat identifiers on the poll.
However not on this 12 months’s race for the Bend-La Pine College Board.
The marketing campaign has change into politically charged, and three candidates on a conservative slate have repeatedly criticized faculties for a way they train problems with race. They’ve mentioned native faculties make white college students really feel responsible, and declare so-called “wokeness” — slang for an alertness to racial or social discrimination and injustice — is ruining native faculties.
The conservative-learning candidates — Maria Lopez-Dauenhauer, Jon Haffner, Gregg Henton and Wendy Imel — didn’t take part in Central Oregon’s largest nonpartisan political discussion board and have barely spoken with native media. As a substitute, they tout themselves as “mother and father, not politicians,” whereas on the identical time chatting with conservative pundits from outdoors Central Oregon, like Fox Information commentator Laura Ingraham and Portland radio character Lars Larson.
John Rexford, who spent 29 years as a neighborhood college administrator earlier than retiring in 2018, mentioned he had by no means seen a faculty board race this politically charged.
“That is the final word fallout from the extreme partisanship we’ve skilled over the previous few years on a nationwide degree,” Rexford mentioned. “That is actually — and I hate to say it — unprecedented.”
Partisan dialogue of race
Race in faculties was a serious level of dialogue when Henton spoke with Portland conservative commentator Lars Larson earlier this week.
On “The Lars Larson Present,” Henton mentioned native faculties have been making white college students really feel responsible.
“What they’re going to be doing is pushing a — I hate to say it — however a guilt journey on our youngsters, particularly our white kids,” he mentioned. “’Billy received’t play with me as a result of I’m white.’ That is the place that is going.”
Henton didn’t checklist his race on his marketing campaign submitting info.
Henton’s opponent for the college board seat, Shirley Olson, mentioned Henton’s assumptions about race in native faculties was off-base. Lecturers do deliver it up, nevertheless it’s extra nuanced than merely making white college students really feel responsible, she mentioned.
“He’s making some enormous assumptions,” mentioned Olson, who additionally didn’t checklist her race on her marketing campaign submitting info. “I don’t have any thought the place he’s getting his info — he’s actually not getting it from the college district.”
Fellow board candidate Marcus LeGrand added that the purpose of anti-racist practices in instructing is to make college students conscious of systemic limitations that hurt college students of shade, not make white children really feel unhealthy.
“An trustworthy take a look at historical past might lead college students to really feel empathy and a larger understanding of the lived experiences of their marginalized friends, however guilt is just not the aim,” LeGrand, who’s Black, wrote in an e-mail.
Phrases like “wokeness” and “white guilt” are meant to close down dialog reasonably than tackle underlying problems with racism, he mentioned.
Two candidates, Lopez-Dauenhauer and Imel, have been briefly interviewed by Ingraham on Tuesday. Ingraham has been criticized previously for defending white supremacists and far-right activists.
Ingraham described the candidates as working “on a platform of breaking the woke monopoly that’s brainwashing their children,” and each Lopez-Dauenhauer and Imel made temporary statements decrying what was being taught in faculties concerning race and the US.
Lopez-Dauenhauer complained about essential race idea — a observe of acknowledging how America’s racist previous nonetheless has systemic impacts right now. Crucial race idea has not too long ago change into a sizzling subject amongst conservatives, in keeping with The Atlantic.
“We’re discovering they’re speaking about essential race idea (in faculties),” Lopez-Dauenhauer, who identifies as Mexican-American, mentioned on Fox Information. “We consider politics don’t have any place within the lecture rooms.”
Henton has additionally been accused, each on Twitter and on Reddit, of constructing racist and Islamophobic tweets. These tweets come from a number of accounts — @HentonGregg and @gregghsunriver — that would not be independently verified as belonging to Henton.
One of many accounts, @gregghsunriver, was deleted after The Bulletin requested Henton and his working mates for remark.
Archived tweets from that account, from 2017, mentioned that Muslims have been “the western hating-murder-them-all type” of individuals, and that the prophet Muhammad dedicated genocide in opposition to those that didn’t convert to Islam.
“I do know of no historian who has written that Muhammad mentioned ‘convert or perish’ or that he dedicated genocide,” David Hollenberg, affiliate professor of Arabic & Islamic Research on the College of Oregon, wrote in an e-mail to The Bulletin.
The @HentonGregg account, which was nonetheless energetic as of Friday afternoon, tweeted in October 2020, to somebody who was essential of then-President Donald Trump, to ”go suck your d***!” The account additionally tweeted a profanity-laced message at actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in September of that 12 months. Johnson didn’t reply.
Henton didn’t reply to e-mail and cellphone name requests for remark in regards to the tweets. When requested in regards to the tweets outdoors his Sunriver residence Thursday, Henton refused to remark.
“I do know who you might be, and I’m not going to speak with you,” Henton mentioned. “I don’t respect you coming to my home. Please go away.”
Native media largely shut out
Henton has not responded to The Bulletin’s repeated requests for remark. Fellow candidate Jon Haffner — the one one of many board candidates who has circuitously talked about race, however did point out a have to ”de-politicize our faculties” on his marketing campaign web site — has additionally not spoken with The Bulletin.
Lopez-Dauenhauer has solely responded to The Bulletin by way of e-mail. Imel has briefly spoken on the cellphone with The Bulletin, however has additionally carried out all interviews by way of e-mail.
All 4 candidates additionally didn’t take part within the League of Ladies Voters of Deschutes County and Metropolis Membership of Central Oregon’s nonpartisan candidate discussion board — one thing that shocked the leaders of these organizations.
Nonetheless, all 4 candidates have campaigned by way of their web sites, on social media and thru a collection of quick YouTube movies.
The 4 Democrat-endorsed college board candidates — Carrie McPherson Douglass, Marcus LeGrand, Janet Sarai Llerandi and Shirley Olson — participated within the nonpartisan discussion board and carried out cellphone interviews with The Bulletin.
Present board member Shimiko Montgomery mentioned she was involved in regards to the conservative slate’s comparative reluctance to talk with native media or take part in nonpartisan boards.
“What I’m shocked about is the dearth of transparency and willingness to interact with the general public by 4 of the candidates,” Montgomery wrote in an e-mail.
Phil Henderson, chair of the Deschutes County Republicans, mentioned neither he nor the get together informed the 4 candidates — all endorsed by the Republicans — to keep away from talking with native media. He declined to touch upon the subject past that.
“They’re working their very own marketing campaign,” Henderson mentioned.
Jason Burge, chair of the Deschutes County Democrats, mentioned he thought the candidates’ lack of participation within the discussion board, or unwillingness to do cellphone interviews with The Bulletin, was a pink flag.
“The need to solely reply with written statements makes me surprise, who’s responding, and who we’re really listening to from,” he mentioned. “How a lot of the content material is basically from the candidates … and the way a lot is scripted from any person else?”
Evan Crawford, an assistant professor of political science on the College of San Diego who makes a speciality of native and college board politics, informed The Bulletin the slate’s communications habits is probably going an intentional marketing campaign technique.
In low-turnout elections in additional liberal areas like Bend, it’s a typical transfer for right-leaning candidates, he mentioned.
“If you happen to’re a conservative slate of candidates working in what’s perceived to be a majority Democratic district, you’re not incentivized to indicate your very Republican views,” Crawford mentioned. “I’m not shocked they wouldn’t take part within the League of Ladies Voters discussion board.”
Crawford added that appearances on conservative media like Fox Information and “The Lars Larson Present” are a means to attract out the native conservative vote in a nonpartisan election, whereas preserving others unaware of their political beliefs.
In a written assertion despatched to The Bulletin, Llerandi mentioned she believes this college board election is getting used as a check by outdoors particular pursuits who “wish to push an alt-right agenda on our faculties.”
“These are nonpartisan races, so that they suppose they’ll make inroads,” she wrote in an e-mail. “So that you see them mendacity to rank and file voters about who they are surely and what they’re about, after which giving a wink to their base with implicit bigotry.”
On Wednesday, Lopez-Dauenhauer filed a proper grievance with Bend-La Pine Faculties, stating that McPherson Douglass — the one incumbent working for college board — had “doxxed” her by posting Lopez-Dauenhauer’s residence tackle, the worth of her massive home, and a Google Maps display screen shot of her residence on Fb. That Fb publish has since been deleted, however Lopez-Dauenhauer included a display screen shot.
“Doxxing” means to maliciously publish somebody’s non-public info publicly. Nonetheless, Lopez-Dauenhauer’s tackle close to Damaged High is included in her publicly accessible marketing campaign submitting sheet, which could be discovered on the Deschutes County elections web page. The identical is true for each different candidate working for each different workplace.
And the sale worth for Lopez-Dauenhauer’s home could be discovered on the Realtor.com web site.
When requested to remark, Lopez-Dauenhauer didn’t reply.
Henderson mentioned he didn’t approve of McPherson Douglass’ publish — which additionally identified Lopez-Dauenhauer’s wealth — even when the data was publicly accessible.
“The place any person lives doesn’t imply they’d be a foul candidate,” Henderson mentioned. “It looks like a low blow.”
McPherson Douglass mentioned the aim of posting this info, and emphasizing Lopez-Dauenhauer’s wealth, was to not say that rich individuals can’t run for college board. However reasonably, that Lopez-Dauenhauer was attempting to purchase her means onto the board.
“Her determination to shirk voters, whereas utilizing her cash to fund assault adverts … is attempting to purchase an election with out partaking with voters,” McPherson Douglass mentioned.
An individual named Dennis Dauenhauer — who’s listed as “candidate and instant household” and as having the identical tackle as Lopez-Dauenhauer — gave Lopez-Dauenhauer’s marketing campaign greater than $27,600 of in-kind contributions, in keeping with the Oregon Secretary of State’s workplace. All different contributions mixed to her marketing campaign, as of Friday, complete barely lower than $8,250.
Dennis Dauenhauer additionally contributed $1,000 every to Haffner and Imel’s campaigns, though he was not the biggest donor for both. He didn’t contribute to Henton’s marketing campaign.
McPherson Douglass’ largest donor was $9,500 from Bend resident Lawrence Hatch,, who has given large cash to high school board candidates previously. She additionally obtained donations of greater than $2,000 from each the Oregon College Workers Affiliation and Oregon Training Affiliation unions in 2017, in keeping with the Oregon Secretary of State’s workplace.
In complete, McPherson Douglass has raised about $36,290 in money and in-kind contributions — primarily comprised of many smaller donations — in comparison with a $35,850 contribution complete for Lopez-Dauenhauer, as of Friday.
Montgomery, who was elected to the college board in 2019, informed The Bulletin that the quite a few situations of slander and demeaning rhetoric shouldn’t be part of an election meant to deal with kids.
“My coronary heart is simply very heavy as I watch these races unfold,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Our youngsters deserve leaders who embody kindness, empathy, and decency towards others.”