Since her recent entry into the political limelight, District 9 State Board of Education candidate Mary Lou Bruner’s bizarre beliefs have caught the attention of the public. Among them:
“President Obama has a soft spot for homosexuals because of the years he spent as a male prostitute in his twenties. That is how he paid for his drugs.”
“Many people believe the Democrat Party had JFK killed because the socialists and Communists in the party did not want a conservative president. Remember who followed JFK as president — (LBJ). The exact opposite of Kennedy — a socialist and an unethical politician. It does seem like this might have been the master plan: They sneaked the bad guy (LBJ) into the administration on the coat-tail of a good guy (JFK). Then they got rid of the good guy; in the end, they got a socialist president which is what they originally wanted.”
“George P. Bush’s to turn the Alamo over the United Nations is a step toward destroying Texans’ loyalty to Texas Heroes and Texas Independence…The United Nations has no business making decisions about OUR ALAMO. The Alamo was bought and paid for with the blood of Texans. The Alamo belongs to Texans — not to the WORLD.”
And those are just a few of her hottest takes. Some of the others? The dinosaurs died out because they were just babies on Noah’s Ark, and thus unable to be fruitful and multiply after that ship came to rest; climate change is a hoax orchestrated by none other than Karl Marx himself; and Islam is not a religion.
And when U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan sprouted that beard, Bruner had this to say: “He looks like a terrorist to me.”
In March, Bruner, a 69-year-old former kindergarten and special education teacher from Mineola, came two percentage points from gaining the Republican nomination and thus an all-but-assured spot on the State Board of Education for a district spanning all or part of 30 East Texas counties, stretching from Lufkin north to the Red River, the Arkansas line to exurban Dallas.
Early voting in her run-off against Lufkin chiropractor and school board president Keven Ellis began on Monday, and going by the numbers, she has the upper hand. In the first race for the Republican nomination, Bruner took 48 percent of the vote against Ellis’s 31 percent. This being East Texas, Democratic challenger Amanda Rudolph is believed to have no chance in the November election, so should Bruner prevail in this month’s run-off against Ellis, she will have a hand in setting the state’s public school curriculum, overseeing graduation requirements, approving textbooks, and stewarding the Texas Permanent Schools Fund.
However, Bruner might have torpedoed her own campaign on May 4, when she agreed to participate in a sort of get-to-know-you meeting with a group of East Texas school superintendents, one in which she hoped to demonstrate her expertise and fitness for the job.
She did anything but.
The video, posted by the Texas Freedom Network, has to be seen to be believed. We’ve all seen politicos utter public gaffes, but here we see a candidate making one unsourced, factually challenged statement after another, even as the audience members called the validity of her statements into question.
Among her statements:
- Half of all public school students are now enrolled in special education programs. Half. The room erupted in a chorus of “No no no!” and “Whoa whoa whoa!” “Is that wrong?” Bruner asked. “I would like to talk to you and I would really like to be informed. I really would. Thank you for telling me.”
- Only 1 in 6 high school graduates can read with enough fluency and comprehension to take college classes. When challenged on that score, Bruner said, “We’ll check on that.”
- Lufkin ISD’s teacher shortage was so dire, it began the school year with no fewer than 91 full-time substitutes. When told that the number of full-time substitutes there had actually been precisely zero, Bruner had a ready riposte: “But this is what a citizen in Lufkin ISD told me.”
She’s been challenged to source her assertions, but has yet to do so. It almost seems as if her entire presentation was based on what she read in chain emails.
Her talk drew the following emotional response from the superintendent of Hawkins ISD, one that brought applause from some of the other educators in the room:
“How do you plan to lead when you don’t even know the truth?” asked Darla Upton McCorkle of Jefferson, mother of a school-age child in District 9. “She said things that were just incorrect. There’s plenty of bad numbers out there for school districts—no need to make anything up.”
“She shouldn’t win but unfortunately she probably will, as not having the truth isn’t hurting anybody else in Texas politics,” said Hugh Lewis II, a newspaperman and substitute teacher.
The whole thing is cringeworthy. You can’t help but feel a little sorry for Bruner; the video reminds me of what would happen if your dotty-but-beloved aunt was forced to read those chain emails she’d been forwarding to a roomful of passionate experts and Politifact editors. But you’d hope that someone with such crackpot views in general and such a shaky grasp on facts relevant to the job she is seeking would be at best a fringe candidate.
But she’s not. She’s the front-runner.