Conservative Christian PAC’s 7 school board candidates running in Lake Elsinore, Murrieta, Temecula

Following last week’s filing deadline, seven candidates endorsed by a group seeking Christian conservative majorities on southwest Riverside County school boards have qualified to run in the Nov. 8 general election.

Jason Craig, Danny Gonzalez, Joseph Komrosky and Jen Wiersma are challenging incumbents for seats on the Temecula Valley Unified School District board, according to the unofficial candidate list from the county Registrar of Voters. Also, Courtney Cooper and Nick Pardue are seeking Murrieta Valley Unified School District board seats and Jill Leonard is running in the Lake Elsinore Unified School District.

All seven have the support of the Inland Empire Family PAC. On its website, the PAC said it “works to stop the indoctrination of our children by placing candidates on school boards who will fight for Christian and Conservative values.”

While “we were hoping for more candidates, (we) look forward to throwing a huge victory party for all seven of our endorsed candidates come November,” 412 Church Temecula Valley Pastor Tim Thompson, who is listed in the PAC’s paperwork as a principal officer, said Tuesday, Aug. 16, via email.

With the candidates officially on the ballot, “we have a massive grassroots effort underway to ensure they’re elected,” Thompson added.

The campaign, he said, will include “direct voter contact including texts, voice calls, door-to-door precinct walking, meet-and-greets, mailers, social media posts, etc.”

The PAC’s platform and “trans-exclusionary language” is concerning, said Julie Geary, a member of the progressive group Temecula Unity and a Val Verde Unified School District teacher.

What the PAC wants goes against state rules protecting LGBTQ students and staff and could expose school districts to lawsuits, Geary said.

“We’re allowed to talk about different racial groups and religions when it comes to literature and history,” she said. “So what they don’t like, it’s the rules and the thing is that’s not something that (the) school board can change, nor should it. That’s something they need to take up with Sacramento.”

If all the PAC-endorsed candidates win, they’d occupy four of five seats on Temecula Valley’s board, but wouldn’t hold majorities on the Murrieta Valley or Lake Elsinore unified school district boards. All the Temecula Valley candidates are running against incumbents, as are Pardue and Leonard. Cooper is seeking an open seat.

Thompson and his allies argue that public schools have usurped parents’ rights and subject children to harmful lessons on sexuality and race. The PAC’s website lists “Forced LGBTQ Acceptance,” “Transgenderism Encouraged” and “Perverted Sexual Training” under the category of “The Problem in Schools.”

The PAC also opposes what it calls critical race theory, a term for graduate-level courses that’s used by conservatives to describe a range of kindergarten-through-12th-grade instruction on U.S. history and race relations. Conservatives contend the theory teaches White children to hate themselves and inflames racial tensions.

The PAC’s efforts alarm progressives, who said that conservative Christians want to install a theocracy, deny children fact-based lessons on puberty and birth control and bully the LGBTQ community.

Cooper, Gonzalez, Komrosky, Pardue and Wiersma appeared at an NFL Draft-style PAC endorsement rally in March in Murrieta. At the event, Thompson announced a campaign to “take back the public square” and unseat school board incumbents deemed unwilling to stand up for parents’ rights and conservative Christian values.

At the rally, Thompson, who opposes COVID-19 mandates and hosts a podcast and YouTube video channel that’s featured Sheriff Chad Bianco, District Attorney Mike Hestrin and conservative pastors and activists, said: “I’ve been saying that the government-ran school system is Satan’s playground. We need to change what’s happening there.”

Komrosky told rally-goers: “When teachers at Temecula can tell kids if you’re a boy and you feel like dressing like a girl, if you’re a girl, you can dress like a boy — I saw an instance of that with my own eyes in our community and I don’t want my son to be affected by it.”

Also at the rally, Cooper said: “I’m not against anyone in their sexual preference This is America. You’re free to do what you want. However, it goes against my values and beliefs as a Christian.”

Since Jan. 1, the PAC has reported more than $123,000 in donations, campaign finance records show.

Its top donors include Murrieta physician Dan Erickson ($25,000), RD Construction of Lake Elsinore ($20,000) and southwest Riverside County developer Dan Stephenson ($11,000).

The candidates are running in a part of the county that’s traditionally receptive to conservative politicians. Murrieta and Temecula have more Republican voters than Democrats and Lake Elsinore is home to conservative state Sen. Melissa Melendez.

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