The Potluck

Minnesota voters reject many anti-mask, anti-CRT school board candidates

By: - November 4, 2021 2:38 pm

A voter casts a ballot at Brackett Recreation Center in Minneapolis on Nov. 2, 2021. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

The swell of school board candidates across Minnesota who campaigned against masking and diversity efforts didn’t see much success on Election Day, as voters mostly stuck with incumbents or went for candidates who took different stances on hot-button issues.

More than 230 candidates filed to run in elections across 46 districts this fall, according to Minnesota Secretary of State records, amid surging interest in school boards nationwide.

Many across the country ran on conservative slates, promising to take on issues like mask mandates and racial equity efforts in schools — but in Minnesota, just a handful of these candidates will join school boards next year.

In several districts, candidates opposed to masking or “critical race theory” — a term often erroneously used as a catch-all for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in K-12 schools —  campaigned in blocs with the goal of winning an ideological majority vote on the board. That’s an unusual tactic for local elections here, Minnesota School Board Association Director Kirk Schneidawind told the Reformer before the election.

They included a group of four candidates in the South Washington County School District running as “the common sense candidates”; the “Wayzata Vote for 3” campaign; and four candidates running together in White Bear Lake. Most blocs were not successful in getting all their candidates elected, except in Hastings, where three conservative candidates beat out incumbents seeking reelection.

One member of South Washington’s four-person conservative slate will serve on the school board; three incumbents were elected for the other open seats. 

Two candidates endorsed by the 1776 Project PAC, a national anti-CRT group, were also elected: Matt Audette in Anoka-Hennepin and Maureen Eigen in Alexandria. Another 1776 Project-endorsed Minnesota candidate, Natalie Marose in Bloomington, was not elected.

Denise Specht, president of the teachers union Education Minnesota, said she wonders if images of irate parents protesting COVID-19 precautions and CRT — even assaulting other attendees in some cases — at school board meetings worked against these candidates.

“People are looking for common-sense leaders who are going to do good things for their kids,” Specht said. “It’s a sign that voters are shouting out for sanity.”

Specht said that despite the rejection by voters, she expects controversy around so-called “critical race theory” to continue for at least another year. 

“This was just the start of ramping up toward the election in 2022,” she said. “I think we’ll see more of these divisions and conversations all over the place.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story omitted a slate of conservative candidates elected in Hastings.

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a data reporter with the Reformer. Rilyn was born and raised in Minnesota and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.

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