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Moms for Liberty Candidates Rejected by Voters in Key School Board Elections

Moms for Liberty Candidates Lose School Board Elections
Images: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images; Shutterstock

Agenda PAC-endorsed candidates secure victory across multiple states, marking a significant defeat for Moms for Liberty and their anti-LGBTQ+ educational agenda.

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In a sweeping rejection of the conservative Moms for Liberty group across the United States, voters turned away from candidates endorsed by the group in multiple school board races. This group, known for its stance against LGBTQ+ educational materials and its advocacy for “parental rights,” faced significant losses in states from Pennsylvania to Iowa.

Agenda PAC, a political action committee dedicated to holding anti-LGBTQ+ politicians accountable, proudly celebrated its victories in school board races following Tuesday’s elections.

How Agenda PAC Targeted Moms for Liberty Races

Agenda PAC-endorsed candidates secured victory across multiple states, marking a significant defeat for Moms for Liberty and their anti-LGBTQ+ educational agenda.

The organization engaged in a strategic campaign in Pennsylvania and New Mexico to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ students and families in schools and counter Moms for Liberty's influence by supporting more progressive candidates. Those candidates beat out Moms for Liberty’s candidates in four Pennsylvania and New Mexico school board races.

Founded in 2021 by former Florida school board members upset about COVID-19 restrictions, the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies the national organization Moms for Liberty as an anti-government extremist group that advocates for book bans in school libraries and spreads hateful imagery and rhetoric against the LGBTQ+ community.

Moms for Liberty-supported candidates in school board races around the country struggled, underlining the effectiveness of Agenda PAC’s efforts.

Where Did Moms For Liberty Lose?

In Pennsylvania, a focal battleground state, Moms for Liberty’s influence waned, endorsing only one candidate in Bucks County — a stark contrast to the previous year’s claim of securing 33 seats. The Central Bucks School District saw Democrats secure all five available board seats despite Moms for Liberty’s voter guide suggesting Republican candidates. This change was seen as a referendum on the controversies and culture wars the district had been embroiled in over the past two years, including deep divisions over COVID protocols, library policy, teacher advocacy and neutrality in the classroom, and transgender athlete participation. The new board, with a Democratic majority, is set to be seated in December.

The Pennridge School District, where GOP candidates shared Moms for Liberty’s ideology, also witnessed a complete turnover to Democrats, rejecting the so-called “Protect Pennridge” slate, which was made up of the Republican candidates.

The trend of defeats for Moms for Liberty extended to Virginia’s Loudoun County, where their candidates were trailing, with some definitively losing to Democrats. Notably, Virginia's Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin's anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-bodily-autonomy policies were resoundingly rejected as Democrats won both houses of the state's legislature.

In Iowa, the story was similar, with Linn-Mar district voters rebuffing three Moms for Liberty-endorsed candidates, opting instead for two incumbents and two new faces.

Other districts in Iowa also saw the group’s candidates fail to secure seats, including those running in the Mount Vernon, Cedar Rapids, and West Des Moines school boards. Notably, a Moms for Liberty candidate in Polk County, Teri Patrick, did not advance after previously demanding criminal charges against the district over LGBTQ+ library books, the Daily Beastreports.

In a recent conversation with The Advocate, Ted Bordelon, the executive director of Agenda PAC, discussed the goals and strategies employed during this election cycle. He highlighted the organization's commitment to countering extremist agendas and the role of targeted messaging.

"Yesterday's election results reaffirm the clear message that parents reject hate and want equitable, inclusive schools for all kids," Bordelon said in a press release, emphasizing the mandate received from voters.

In District 2 of Albuquerque Public Schools, Ronalda K. Tome narrowly defeated incumbent Peggy Muller-Aragón, with fewer than 300 votes separating the two, according to unofficial results from the New Mexico Secretary of State. Muller-Aragón, who ran an unsuccessful 2022 primary bid for the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor of New Mexico, had received public support from Sarah Jane Allen, the co-founder and chair of the Bernalillo County chapter of Moms for Liberty, Source NM reports. Tome was endorsed by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and several unions, including the American Federation of Teachers in New Mexico.

The District 4 race in New Mexico was among the few landslide victories in school board races in the area. According to Source NM, Heather R. Benavidez defeated Stephen J. Cecco 82 percent to 18 percent. Benavidez will replace outgoing board member Barbara Petersen. Benavidez previously ran an unsuccessful 2022 primary bid for the Democratic nominee for New Mexico treasurer. Cecco ran an unsuccessful 2020 bid as a Republican New Mexico House of Representatives candidate. Cecco also received support from the co-founder and chair of the Bernalillo County chapter of Moms for Liberty.

Agenda PAC 2023 'Possibility'www.youtube.com

Agenda PAC invested $50,000 in digital programming and targeting as part of its campaign strategy. This included a Get Out the Vote digital buy in Pennsylvania, specifically targeting the Central Bucks School District, Pennridge School District, and Bensalem School District. A GOTV digital buy was also executed in Albuquerque School District, New Mexico. The organization also implemented a field program that made hundreds of voter outreach contacts in the Central Bucks School District.

Why Did Moms For Liberty-Aligned Candidates Lose So Badly?

Anne Wakabayashi, vice president of campaign and creative services at the media strategy company Berlin Rosen, said the targeting and messaging was important for the candidates.

"What we want to do is talk to the parents and the common-sense folks out there who just don't want this getting in the way of the essentials that government is supposed to do," Wakabayashi said.

Samantha Pollara, principal at Spotlight Strategies, added, "That turns parents off. And hopefully, our messaging this year will have given them a little bump to come out and vote."

Discussing the reception of divisive messages, Pollara noted, "People just don't like it. I think the basis of our messaging is this common-sense message about letting's keep education for kids and not politicize it."

Bordelon emphasized the relevance of the messaging by pointing out that parents were exhausted by the politicization of school board races.

"Parents are just tired of how Moms for Liberty has been trying to inject their politics into education, which should be, to whatever degree possible, politics-free," he explained.

As for the future, Bordelon emphasized Agenda PAC's commitment to the fight for LGBTQ+ rights at the school board level and to oppose "beatable bigots" in political races nationwide. He highlighted that school board races are where the fight for LGBTQ+ rights is currently taking place, and the organization intends to maintain its focus on these crucial ballot races.

"Agenda PAC's mission is to hold accountable anti-LGBTQ politicians with gloves-off communication strategies," Bordelon said.

Agenda PAC 2023 'Financial Gain'youtu.be

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Christopher Wiggins

Christopher Wiggins is a senior national reporter for The Advocate. He has a rich career in storytelling and highlighting underrepresented voices. Growing up in a bilingual household in Germany, his German mother and U.S. Army father exposed him to diverse cultures early on, influencing his appreciation for varied perspectives and communication. His work in Washington, D.C., primarily covers the nexus of public policy, politics, law, and LGBTQ+ issues. Wiggins' reporting focuses on revealing lesser-known stories within the LGBTQ+ community. Key moments in his career include traveling with Vice President Kamala Harris and interviewing her in the West Wing about LGBTQ+ support. In addition to his national and political reporting, Wiggins represents The Advocate in the White House Press Pool and is a member of several professional journalistic organizations, including the White House Correspondents’ Association, Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists, and Society of Professional Journalists. His involvement in these groups highlights his commitment to ethical journalism and excellence in the field. Follow him on X/Twitter @CWNewser (https://twitter.com/CWNewser) and Threads @CWNewserDC (https://www.threads.net/@cwnewserdc).
Christopher Wiggins is a senior national reporter for The Advocate. He has a rich career in storytelling and highlighting underrepresented voices. Growing up in a bilingual household in Germany, his German mother and U.S. Army father exposed him to diverse cultures early on, influencing his appreciation for varied perspectives and communication. His work in Washington, D.C., primarily covers the nexus of public policy, politics, law, and LGBTQ+ issues. Wiggins' reporting focuses on revealing lesser-known stories within the LGBTQ+ community. Key moments in his career include traveling with Vice President Kamala Harris and interviewing her in the West Wing about LGBTQ+ support. In addition to his national and political reporting, Wiggins represents The Advocate in the White House Press Pool and is a member of several professional journalistic organizations, including the White House Correspondents’ Association, Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists, and Society of Professional Journalists. His involvement in these groups highlights his commitment to ethical journalism and excellence in the field. Follow him on X/Twitter @CWNewser (https://twitter.com/CWNewser) and Threads @CWNewserDC (https://www.threads.net/@cwnewserdc).