In 2021, the so-called “parents’ rights” conservative movement was ascendant. Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin ran on a platform based almost entirely on opposing the teaching of anti-racism and LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum in schools, marshaling the support of a group of self-proclaimed “Mama Bears” to propel him to victory. But last night, Democrat Schuyler VanValkenburg defeated Youngkin’s hopeful successor, Republican state Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, who appeared eager to continue Youngkin’s parents’ rights crusade. In campaign ads, VanValkenberg positioned himself squarely against the parents’ rights crowd, decrying book bans and talking up “the difference one book can make for a child.”
Parents rights crusaders lost many other key races last night. The most influential force in the movement has been, without a doubt, Moms for Liberty, a national group founded in 2021 by two conservative Florida moms. In just two years, the group has amassed 115,000 members in 285 chapters across 45 states. Though Moms for Liberty claims to be a grassroots coalition of parents, as I have reported, it has strong ties to conservative powerhouse groups, including the Heritage Foundation and the Leadership Institute.
Moms for Liberty crows about its success in helping its chosen candidates win their elections; of the 500 right-wing candidates the group endorsed for school board last year, three-quarters of whom had never before run, 275 won their races.
But this year, Moms for Liberty’s luck appears to be running out—last night, many of the group’s favored candidates lost. Here is a non-exhaustive list of results, as of Wednesday morning, in a few places where there were candidates endorsed or recommended by Moms for Liberty:
- In Pennsylvania, the group recommended (but didn’t officially endorse) candidates in five districts. In Central Bucks, five parents’ rights candidates lost their seats to Democrats, as did another five in the Pennridge
- In Iowa, the group endorsed 13 candidates. Just one won.
Moms for Liberty chapters across Iowa endorsed 13 candidates in the 2023 school board races. Out of the 13, a single candidate won in the I35 school district; a rural district with fewer than 1000 students.
— Keenan Crow (@KF_Crow) November 8, 2023
- In Virginia’s Loudoun County, so far, it appeared that three Moms for Liberty-backed candidates had lost their races.
- In North Carolina’s Mooresville Graded School District Board of Education, a Moms for Liberty-backed candidate lost to a Democrat.
- In Minnesota’s Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District all four of the Moms for Liberty candidates were defeated.
On social media, Moms for Liberty supporters are bemoaning last night’s results. Here’s anti-trans activist and Moms for Liberty conference speaker January Littlejohn on an Ohio referendum that would have barred gender-affirming care:
Do parents in Ohio know they just voted to forfeit their parental rights when it comes to their child accessing sterilizing medical interventions to treat the mental health issue of gender dysphoria? https://t.co/yXNywgrneM
— January Littlejohn (@JanuaryDoNoHarm) November 8, 2023
Meanwhile, Moms for Liberty’s critics are cheering—this one references that one time a Moms for Liberty chapter leader quoted Hitler in a newsletter:
Really bad night for Hitler-loving homophobic book banners Moms For Liberty, whose candidates got shredded nationwide. https://t.co/GzNWIX6c37
— Mike Rothschild (no relation) (@rothschildmd) November 8, 2023