How a suburban Pennsylvania school board race became a Trumpian battleground

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The late U.S. House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill used to famously say that "all politics is local," meaning that it was hard to impose a national framework on the often quirky world of local campaigns.These days, thanks to the ubiquity of social media, cable news, and the rise of big money in pol...
The late U.S. House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill used to famously say that "all politics is local," meaning that it was hard to impose a national framework on the often quirky world of local campaigns.

These days, thanks to the ubiquity of social media, cable news, and the rise of big money in politics that steers the conversation, the exact opposite appears to be true: Local campaigns have turned into microcosms of the arguments that we're having at the national level.

Need proof? Look no further than an unsigned letter that landed in mailboxes across Camp Hill Borough, a picturesque community of some 7,911 people that's a mile or two across the Susquehanna River from Harrisburg, last week (Full disclosure: I live in Camp Hill, and have a child in the local schools).

The anonymous letter, which is riddled with both spelling and factual errors, targets Democratic school board candidates Karen Mallah, Josceylon Buchs, and Melanie Gurgiolo, warning that their "election will do serious and permanent harm to our exception (sic), small and excellent school district due to their radical agenda they intend to jointly pursue if elected."

It was sent to borough residents who have yard signs supporting Buchs and Mallah. Gurgiolo told the Capital-Star that she is not using yard signs during the fall campaign cycle.

You can read some of the more extravagant claims below.

If a lot of that sounds familiar, that's because it should. The letter echoes talking points about critical race theory, the shameful legacy of slavery, and other dire talk about inclusion for transgender athletes that's become a staple of conservative talk radio and cable television.

The claim about critical race theory, like the other assertions in the letter, is false.

Like every other K-12 school, Camp Hill does not teach critical race theory — a reality backed up by Superintendent Daniel Serfass who pointed that out in an online letter to parents over the summer. But that didn't stop some…
John L. Micek, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
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