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Divisive Campaign Rhetoric Trickles Down to Local Races


Wednesday, July 14, 2021   

SIOUX CITY, Iowa - A new Ballotpedia report shows a nationwide spike in efforts, largely led by right-wing groups, to recall school board members over such issues as COVID protocols and Critical Race Theory teachings.

The false claims of election fraud after last year's presidential race may have started it, but with local elections on the horizon, some of the same talking points are surfacing in other arenas. There are no active recalls in Iowa, but retired educator Bruce Lear said organizations such as No Left Turn have been active in a couple of counties. That has him worried.

"We haven't really had that in Iowa," he said. "School board elections have been nonpartisan; we'd like to keep them that way."

Lear, who was a regional director for the Iowa State Education Association, predicted that groups critical of more robust teaching about racism will result in candidates who might undermine the democratic process. Lear said that could deter others from running, leaving voters and students at a disadvantage. Iowa already has banned curricula that include Critical Race Theory.

Whether it's a school board or local government, Joe Ready, program director of the Public Interest Research Group, said conservative activists might not gain as much traction on these issues. He said voters are more trusting of local officials, but added that broader public discourse isn't helping in crafting meaningful election policy.

"What we're seeing," he said, "is 'this is necessary' to prevent a problem that doesn't exist - voter fraud."

He pointed to the recent election law adopted by the state of Iowa, which, among other things, restricted early voting. Ready said there might be room to have healthy discussion on what's best for the system. But he noted that the new law, and similar ones approved by GOP-led legislatures, are driven by party motivation.


Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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