The Westside school board’s upcoming caucus became embroiled in controversy this week when a text message circulated on social media urging support for candidates who would “give us a chance to get the critical race theory bulls—- (white shaming) out of the schools.”
The message, which was shared widely on social media, was sent by Joe Fulcher, who has since apologized and said he was speaking for himself and not the candidates he was backing.
In the text, he urged people to vote for four candidates — Miles deMayo, Suzanne DeJong, Mike Boyle and Colby Rinker — in the Feb. 1 caucus.
Boyle and Rinker have since dropped out of the race, leaving seven candidates running for two seats on the Westside school board. The top four candidates from the caucus will advance to the May 10 election.
Fulcher noted in the text that current board members Adam Yale and Kris Karnes are both seeking re-election.
“If we can get people to vote for our 4, it eliminates votes for adam & kris,” Fulcher wrote, adding later: “Please keep this on the down low, as we want to surprise the ‘enemy.’ “
Rinker, a Westside alum, said Thursday he dropped out of the race after learning of the text. He said one of the reasons he decided to run was to “help build unity in a divisive world that we are right now.”
Rinker said he doesn’t know Fulcher and had only met him twice.
“All of a sudden I’m part of this coalition to destroy something that I love,” Rinker said. “I don’t know why anybody would associate me with this. My whole world has exploded.”
In the text, Fulcher said he and Westside parent Chris Hawkins have “spearheaded the endeavor of recruiting four solid conservative patriots” to run for the school board.
Hawkins said in a statement that while he hasn’t always supported incumbents Yale and Karnes, he had no part in the text. He also said his interest in the school board election has “nothing to do with CRT.”
Critical race theory is a way of thinking about America’s history that centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain the dominance of white people in society, according to the Associated Press. It has become a lightning rod for many in the Republican Party.
DeJong released a statement Thursday saying she didn’t authorize the text message and that it doesn’t represent her motivations for running.
“For someone to present me as being on either side of the political spectrum could not be further from reality,” she said.
The text message drew an apology from Fulcher.
“I was speaking only for myself, and I never actually discussed the issue of CRT with any candidates,” Fulcher said in a statement. “I’m sorry that my tongue-in-cheek humor didn’t translate via text.”
People will have the opportunity to vote Feb. 1 in the seven-candidate race. Terry Buckman, Jaime Kruse and Jessica Powell are also running.
People can vote at Westside High School, 8701 Pacific St., from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on caucus day. Voting also will take place at the caucus after the candidates have spoken. Voter sign-in begins at 6 p.m., and the caucus will begin at 7 p.m.
Voter registration is not available at the caucus. District 66 residents who are not registered can register before the caucus at the Douglas County Election Commission, 12220 West Center Road.