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Slate of conservative Elkhorn school board candidates comes up short

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2022 Election results for Omaha area races

A slate of three conservative Elkhorn school board candidates who campaigned together on their shared opposition to comprehensive sex education, critical race theory and masking failed to win a single seat on the board, according to the latest unofficial results.

The group, called Team SET, came in behind incumbents Amy Parks and Nancy Rogic-Greufe and former teacher and football coach Mark Wortman. Parks and Wortman both received more than 10,600 votes, putting them at a healthy distance from the rest of the pack.

Brett Elliott, one of the three candidates on Team SET, trailed Rogic-Greufe by 32 votes in the results posted early Wednesday morning, but the margin widened to more than 200 votes after the Douglas County Election Commission released updated results Friday. About 2,800 provisional ballots from across Douglas County still need to be processed.

“We always said we campaigned together but ran as individuals, so people had to vote for the people, not the team. That became clear because our results varied in numbers per person,” Elliott said. “As a whole, we didn’t get in the race to not win, so we were disappointed in the result.”

Team SET, which stands for the last names of the three candidates (Luther Starks, Elliott and Jerid Tingelhoff), received some support. Others who opposed its priorities labeled the members radical and extreme.

“If it’s extreme to be a watchful eye on cultural and social creep that is leading to agenda-based education, then maybe we are extreme,” Starks said in one of the team’s campaign videos.

The group said it wanted students to have medical freedom, which included the option to not wear face masks. It also didn’t support the proposed health education standards, which the State Board of Education postponed indefinitely in 2021 in the face of deafening opposition from some parents.

Critical race theory, which argues that racism is embedded in laws, policies and society, also was a concern for Team SET. There’s no evidence critical race theory, traditionally a graduate-school level concept, is being taught in any K-12 schools in Nebraska.

“The SET Team believes that we should teach our kids to love one another,” Starks said in another video. “To teach them that they’re equal in the sight of God, that there’s no oppressee and there’s no oppressor, that we are all in this together.”

Team SET’s values mirrored those of many conservative school board candidates who campaigned across Nebraska.

Three Norfolk school board candidates campaigned together under the name Common Sense Candidates. The entire group — Teri Bauer, Cindy Booth and Lindsay Rohleder-Dixon — was elected.

On the group’s Facebook page, it states it’s against “sexually inappropriate material, trans-activism, critical race theory and other political and cultural movements.”

Another group of three candidates campaigned together for the Hastings school board. They called themselves the 2022 Conservative Voices. Of the three, Stacie Widhelm was the only member who appeared poised to make it onto the board.

Conservative candidates had a strong showing in races for the State Board of Education. Three out of the four seats were captured by conservative Republicans. Omaha’s District 8 was the only state board seat that wasn’t won by a conservative candidate.

School board positions are deemed nonpartisan, and the best members are those who don’t get political, said Parks, the board president in Elkhorn.

“School boards serve the community, and the best board members put aside their personal beliefs,” she said.

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