Aug 25, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Conservatives notch wins in Florida school boards

 Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Unite and Win Rally in support of Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

A conservative coalition focused on Florida school board elections had a big night on Tuesday with dozens of their candidates helping them gain influence over school boards around the state.

Why it matters: School boards have become ground zero for political fights over COVID-19 restrictions, curricula involving racism, and the rights of LGBTQ+ students and transgender athletes.

The big picture: Although school board members are officially nonpartisan in Florida, conservative groups such as Moms for Liberty and 1776 Project PAC touted gaining conservative majorities on school boards in some of the biggest Florida counties following Tuesday's elections.

  • Those counties include Miami-Dade as well as Sarasota, Clay, Duval, and Brevard, according to the groups, which promote conservative education-related candidates and policies across the country.
  • Miami-Dade voted for Joe Biden over Donald Trump in 2020 by a 7-point margin, but two DeSantis-backed school board candidates will now join the 9-seat board. Duval county also went for Biden in 2020.

By the numbers: DeSantis endorsed 30 candidates across the state; 25 of them won or will go on to runoff elections, according to counts provided to Axios.

  • One such candidate in Duval County, April Carney, defeated incumbent Elizabeth Andersen who was recently the board's chairwoman. Two DeSantis endorsees won in Miami-Dade, including Monica Colucci, who also defeated an incumbent.
  • 1776 PAC, which was formed to support school board candidates opposed to critical race theory, backed 49 school board candidates in Florida, including many endorsed by DeSantis; 35 of those candidates won or will move on to runoffs. The group spent around $400,000 on the races.
  • Moms for Liberty also touted 43 wins, including 14 of their supported candidates heading to runoffs.
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