Home 2019 Elections The “Trump Effect” Turns Local School Board Races From Staid to Strident,...

The “Trump Effect” Turns Local School Board Races From Staid to Strident, with Nasty Anti-LGBTQ Views and Republican Candidates

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by Robert Norris Rigby of FCPS Pride, which ” envisions a public school system in Fairfax County, Virginia, in which all students, staff and families are safe, respected and welcome, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.”

Fairfax County and Loudoun County Republicans are leaning on national arch-conservative media and national anti-LGBTQ organizations in trying to take control of their counties’ local School Boards.

With a Daily Caller article much touted by Republican School Board candidates, interviews and endorsements of candidates by Sebastian Gorka, and anti-LGBTQ (in particular anti-trans) conferences, campaign efforts and endorsements by the anti-LGBTQ “hate group” Family Research Council personnel, these national figures are getting involved in our local school board politics.

These national figures and groups are focusing on local School Boards, because they know that voter participation in these elections is super low, and they see an opportunity to have a major impact by riling up and turning out their most dedicated followers. Inclusion and protection for LGBTQ students and staff has made much progress in Fairfax and Loudoun over the past few years, and these Republican operatives would desperately like to turn back the clock. They know that Fairfax and Loudoun have set precedents for the rest of the state, and clearly don’t want that precedent to spread further.

In the far-right Daily Caller, which you can link to but which I won’t link to, Luke Rosiak wrote an article about how “George Soros backed activist groups” are bringing “racial equity policies” to counties and school systems across the country. Rosiak focused on the “One Fairfax” policy, which he falsely claims will lead to county-wide busing and pulling children out of their neighborhood schools. In fact, this claim is a red herring which is absurd on the face of it—FCPS has no intention of implementing busing, and no one has suggested it—it’s just a straw man Rosiak can knock down.Thus, Rosiak refers to scary-sounding “radical activist groups” which imposed One Fairfax from outside. The reality is that “One Fairfax” is a home-grown policy that was motivated by the need to make sure that equitable resources are directed to our low-income schools.

Rosiak has addressed the monthly Fairfax Republican meeting, been interviewed by the Fairfax GOP vice-chair, and is headlining the Fairfax GOP get-out-the-vote breakfast. The Fairfax Republican School Board candidates link to his article, as though it is an independent expose on “Soros-backed” interference in our local government, when in fact Luke Rosiak has close ties to the Fairfax County Republican Committee. In short, this article was a set-up for political purposes, not an independent journalistic exercise.

Meanwhile, the infamous Sebastian Gorka has a national arch-conservative radio platform on which  he has interviewed Fairfax School Board candidates Vinson Palathingal, Elizabeth Schultz, Laura Ramirez Drain, Steven Mosley and Priscilla DeStefano. There may be more to come. Gorka is a former Trump administration political appointee who was forced out because he was too extreme even for the Trump administration. He has ties to Hungarian neo-Nazi organizations, and among other things, pushes a shockingly anti-LGBTQ message on his radio program. These interviews appear to be an effort to get out the right-wing “base”for some extremist Fairfax County candidates who are unlikely to prevail, simply by presenting their messages openly to the general electorate.

Then there’s the Family Research Council. FRC is a DC-based organization with a $51,000,000 budget focused on extremely anti-LGBTQ and anti-choice themes. They have been much involved in Fairfax County School Board activism, fighting against inclusion of LGBTQ people in non-discrimination policies and Family Life Education. They have also intervened in neighboring Arlington and Loudoun counties. In the past month, FRC and their allies have sponsored four “forums” or conferences about Family Life Education and accommodation of transgender students in Northern Virginia: two of these have been in Fairfax County, and two of these have featured Fairfax County School Board member and candidate Elizabeth Schultz. They amount to campaign rallies, again to get out the vote for the arch-conservative, anti-LGBTQ candidates that the Family Research Council is supporting.

The FRC representatives in Fairfax have endorsed Vinson Palathingal and Laura Ramirez Drain, and put campaign resources to the aid of Anastasia Karloutsos. That help was gladly accepted by those candidates. In Loudoun, there is now a great fuss about LGBTQ-interest books in the libraries (yes, they are proposing to censor/ban books), clearly with an aim of influencing the elections there.

Why is this happening? Why are the Fairfax and Loudoun School Board races, which are normally staid affairs, so bitter and strident? I can speculate on two possible reasons. One is the Trump effect: people who would normally be reluctant to voice extreme anti-LGBTQ and pro-segregation views (and face it, that’s what the opposition to “One Fairfax” and scare-mongering about busing really are) in past years now feel enabled by the extreme language and actions from the White House to “let it all hang out”

The other reason I propose is that the Republican Party in Fairfax County – and possibly in Loudoun County as well in the next few years – has become electorally irrelevant. They see their only chance of success at the ballot box this November is to concentrate on low-turnout, officially non-partisan School Board races. They see these races as their only chance of success at the polls next month, so they have put all of their eggs in that basket. On 11/5, let’s all make sure that these anti-LGBTQ candidates remain irrelevant, by voting for these great, Democratic-endorsed School Board candidates. Thanks.