Florida Republicans, led by DeSantis, this election cycle poured thousands of dollars into school board races and offered endorsements in historically nonpartisan races to push their education policies at the local level. As a result, the Democrats followed suit by endorsing their own candidates, sparking a new electoral battleground.
The Conservatives ran on a platform that stresses parental rights, school choice and transparency about what students are learning in school, particularly on issues of race and gender identity.
Democrats, meanwhile, fought DeSantis by drawing attention to a teacher shortage plaguing Florida and student test scores showing a drop since the pandemic.
In Sarasota County, candidates endorsed by DeSantis have won three races, sure to have a major effect on a school board that last fall was one of several that opposed DeSantis and other GOP leaders by requiring students to wear masks. amid the covid-19 pandemic. . Voters elected two new school board members and re-elected Bridget Ziegler, who is married to the vice president of the Florida Republican Party.
“The community has spoken and it is very clear: they demand a reboot of the School Board”, Ziegler wrote on Twitter after his victory. “And that’s what they’re going to get.”
DeSantis-backed candidates also won big victories in Miami-Dade County, another school board that has antagonized Republicans for masking students.
In one contest, Monica Colucci, a GOP-backed educator, defeated Marta Perez, a 24-year school board member, despite raising about $70,000 less than her opponent. Colucci secured more than $42,000 in donations from conservative-linked political committees, including state lawmakers from across Florida such as former state House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R-Palm Harbor) and incoming Speaker Paul Renner (R-Palm Coast).
“Thank you to each of the volunteers and all the voters of District 8 for trusting and supporting me during this process,” Colucci wrote on social media. “I will work tirelessly on our School Board for all the students, parents, and teachers in #MDCPS.”
Also in Miami, Roberto Alonso defeated Maribel Balbín —Democratic candidate— by more than 8,300 votes. Democrats, who backed at least 30 candidates from the main party and others, also had some success Tuesday.
Most notably, Karen Perez, an incumbent board member in Hillsborough County, defeated Alysha “Aly Marie” Legge, who was endorsed by DeSantis and a member of the conservative parenting rights group Moms for Liberty.
Elsewhere, in Volusia County, Democratic-backed incumbent Rubén Colón retained his seat against Fred Lowry, a DeSantis candidate.
In trying to reach voters, Democrats tried to draw attention to issues like the DeSantis administration’s hard line on class materials, which Republicans are strictly investigating for traces of “critical race theory” and references. to sexual orientation.
“I think it has encouraged a different segment of the community to come out,” said Andrea Mercado, co-executive director of the progressive activist group Florida Rising.