Monday, August 14, 2006

Sawyer Run for State School Board Gives Hope to HOPE

Erstwhile U.S. Representative and Congressional candidate Tom Sawyer is running for the District 7 seat of the State School Board. The latest from the news media is this PeeDee story from Thursday noting that Sawyer is considering a run. As of now, he and his supporters are gathering signatures. The signature campaign looks pretty solid, so expect a run. (District 7 comprises Summit, Portage, Trumbull and Ashtabula Counties.)

Sawyer will be running against crypto-creationist and charter school honk Deborah Owens Fink. Through nothing but sheer luck and coincidence, I've been privy to much of the backstory as foes of Fink have looked for a champion. A number of university science professors have been actively seeking a candidate since D'Oh Fink led the unsuccessful Intelligent Design charge this past spring. And just so you know, my name (my real one) was floated as a potential candidate, as were names of some friends of mine. Sawyer's name came up at one point, he was approached and said yes.

The U profs are sufficiently determined that they have formed a political organization, HOPE (Help Ohio Public Education). Media darling Lawrence Krauss and former Steven Gould protege Patricia Princehouse, both at Case, are leading the charge, but academics from Akron and OSU are also lending strong support. (Some of the Akron folks are friends of mine, hence the inside dope.) The link to the website should find a permanent home on the sidebar soon.

I have to give some serious credit to Sawyer for taking this on. He certainly saw the politics as ugly as it gets in the Ohio 13 primary. He is walking into a race that, given the stakes for the players, promises to be plenty ugly in it's own right. Anyone in politics will tell you that elected officials never run for a "lower" office, as a matter of etched-in-granite political law. Sawyer jumping back in this soon after a bruising campaign is a selfless, party-and-principle-first move -- one that makes me doubt some of the street gumbling I heard in the primary. Makes me doubt it enough that I've deleted the posts I wrote about it.

Looking forward, Sawyer has a decent shot at this. I've noted that the unions who still speak well of him are teachers unions who will put whatever they have to spare behind this race. He is likely to get significant support from the scientific community, hopefully overcoming his well-worn reputation as a reluctant fundraiser. Between he and his wife, he has strong credibility as an education policy maker. And because he is a high-profile Democrat, he should benefit from the generally D-friendly political environment.

As of now, the signature campaign appears to be going well, but if you can contribute to the effort, and in particular if you are in Trumbull or Ashtabula County, consider getting in touch with the nascent campaign to volunteer. You can use the contact info on the HOPE website or, email me and I'll forward it to my friends in the effort. I'm working on a research-heavy post about why the State Board of Ed. race matters. In the meantime, feel free to visit the State Board webpage and read up on your own.


Anonymous said...

Ahem. Latest on the Sawyer-possibly-running for school board is an article in the Akron Beacon Journal, which did in fact say that he was collecting signatures on petitions. Story also included quotes from Sawyer and Fink. PD did not talk to Fink.

Anonymous said...

Nice background on the post. Agreed, too, that Sawyer's jump into this race is decidely against the stream, but might be a great win if he's successful, for both public education and him.

54cermak said...

Pho, this is totally unrelated but I caught you on WCPN this morning. It was a great piece!

Incidentally, I was totally unaware that state school board members were elected by the public. The news about Sawyer is definitely good.

Anonymous said...

Tom Sawyer would be perfect for this position! He has strong educational ties and will likely be a forceful Board member when elected!

Owens-Fink has been a single-issue (anti-evolution) presence, and is in the untenable position of being on the Board when Ohio schools have been rated as changing for the worse (dropping 11 positions relative to other states, the largest drop of any state in the country!) in the most-recent assessment (Morgan Quitno Press, 2005). Replacing Owens-Fink with Sawyer would be a real win for Ohio!

scott bakalar said...

It would be a great move for Sawyer - the man has got to serve, and this is a great opportunity for him.

Anonymous said...

Tom Sawyer has some serious issues to deal with. When I met him in March I told him I was running against Fink for board of education. He was at this time in the congressional primary. He told me he supported my campaign but could not sign my petition because he LIVED OUTSIDE THE DISTRICT.

Apparently he has moved?

Sawyer is a conformist to the bone. He shafted the workers with NAFTA and he shafted education by voting for No Child Left Behind. Why should the people trust him again?

Dave Kovacs

Anonymous said...

Sawyer's run is great news - thanks for getting the word out. He is just the guy to help the board finally do something productive (like take a stand on school funding, or make charter schools accountable), instead of piddle around trying to insert creationism into the science curriculum.