Correction Appended: March 3, 2008
Even in Texas, where only a couple of weeks ago Mike Huckabee thought he could rely on the heavy Evangelical presence to give John McCain a real primary fight, the Republican race no longer looks like a serious contest. But while Huckabee may no longer be in a position to sway the outcome of the Republican presidential primary/caucus on Tuesday, he does stand to have a profound impact on another crucial, and potentially more controversial, vote that same day.
Next year the Texas State Board of Education will be writing the science curriculum standards for Texas public schoolchildren, and Huckabee may bring enough conservative fundamentalist voters to the polls on March 4 to swing the balance of power on the board to the supporters of creationism. "If Huckabee marshals the religious right in Texas, particularly in North Texas, it has profound implications for the state board," says Kathy Miller, executive director of the Texas Freedom Network (TFN), an Austin-based advocacy group whose stated goal is to "counter the religious right" in public policy issues, particularly education.
Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister who expressed his support for creationism while serving as governor of neighboring Arkansas, has been pressed several times during the presidential campaign for his view of teaching evolution, but has evaded the issue. "It is interesting that question would even be asked of someone running for President of the United States," Huckabee responded in a presidential debate last June. "I am not planning on writing the curriculum for an eighth grade science book I am asking for the opportunity to be President of the United States."
Huckabee has focused his Texas campaign on rousing his evangelical core constituency in the Texas Bible Belt conservative towns like Tyler in east Texas; Waco, home to Baylor University; Plano, a conservative, affluent Dallas-area community; and Fort Worth, where Huckabee attended the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in the 1970s. It is his efforts in Fort Worth that concern advocates like Miller; there SBOE District 11 member Pat Hardy, a former schoolteacher, curriculum adviser and moderate Republican, is facing a challenge from fellow Republican Barney Maddox, a urologist and ardent supporter of creationism. With no Democratic candidate on the ballot, Tuesday's winner will take a seat on the contentious 15-member board. Maddox, who declines media interview requests, has posted his writings on the web at sites like the Institute for Creation Research and has called Charles Darwin's work "pre-Civil War fairy tales."