Republicans Robert Morrow and Lani Popp are poised to compete in a May runoff race after Tuesday’s State Board of Education District 5 primary competitions.

Five candidates hoped to replace longtime SBOE member Ken Mercer, who did not file for reelection. The district they sought to represent spans North Bexar County east to Travis County and includes several small cities like Alamo Heights, Castle Hills, and Converse. Mercer, a conservative stalwart on an already Republican-dominated board, has held the District 4 seat for the last 14 years.

As of 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, more than 187,000 votes were tabulated in the Democratic primary and close to 136,000 in the Republican primary.

In the Republican primary, Morrow took the lead, winning 54,387 votes. Lani Popp closely trailed with 45,921 votes, and Inga Cotton claimed 35,237 votes. Popp and Morrow will compete in a runoff election in May.

Morrow is the controversial former chair of the Travis County GOP, who had to give up his leadership role when he filed to run for president as a write-in candidate in the 2016 election. Morrow hopes to use the seat on SBOE to imprison President Donald Trump, the candidate said in a tweet.

After early voting results were released, Morrow tweeted that voters were responding well to his platform to imprison President Trump.

On Tuesday night, he was escorted out of a Progress Texas event in Austin, wearing a jester’s cap and holding a large red sign with the words “[Donald] Trump is a Child Rapist.”

Current Travis County GOP Chair Matt Mackowiak tweeted his opposition to Morrow’s Tuesday night success, saying “we will crush him on May 26 or I will light myself on fire.”

Mercer endorsed Lani Popp, a Northside ISD speech language pathologist. Popp’s priorities include ensuring historically and scientifically accurate and age-appropriate curriculum standards, reviewing textbooks to prevent bias, and reforming Texas’ state standardized testing system, according to her campaign website.

Inga Cotton runs the nonprofit organization San Antonio Charter Moms, which connects parents with resources for school choice. Cotton, a school choice advocate, described herself as well-suited to evaluate charter applications. She also said she would want to build coalitions with members of both parties when reviewing curriculum standards.

In the two-person Democratic primary, Rebecca Bell-Metereau took a decisive lead from the beginning. By Wednesday morning, she won 127,668 votes to Letti Bresnahan’s 59,798 votes.

Rebecca Bell-Metereau is a Texas State University professor and repeat candidate for District 5. Bell-Metereau ran against Mercer several times, coming closest to beating him in 2016 when she lost by about 4 percent.

Letti Bresnehan is a former North East ISD trustee and board president and currently serves on the board of Education Service Center Region 20, which supports area school districts.

State Board of Education members set curriculum standards, review and adopt textbooks, establish graduation requirements, and reject or approve proposed charter schools. The board has often attracted national media attention with ideological debates about what should be taught in schools. Members have debated how much slavery contributed to the Civil War’s start and whether students should learn evolution or creationism.

The winners of the Republican and Democratic primaries will face one another in the general election in November.

Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the Rivard Report.