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Pinellas School Board member Lisa Cane faces challenges from right and left

The District 2 incumbent signed Gov. Ron DeSantis’ pledge, but one opponent says she’s not conservative enough.
From left, Brad DeCorte, incumbent Lisa Cane and Bronson Oudshoff are competing to represent District 2 on the Pinellas County School Board.
From left, Brad DeCorte, incumbent Lisa Cane and Bronson Oudshoff are competing to represent District 2 on the Pinellas County School Board. [ Courtesy of Pinellas County Schools, Brad DeCorte, Bronson Oudshoff ]
Published Jul. 16|Updated Jul. 18

Bronson Oudshoff says conservatives were excited when voters elected Lisa Cane to the Pinellas County School Board in 2018.

“She is Christian and, as far as I know, she is a really great person,” Oudshoff told an audience at the Faith Christian Church in Clearwater.

But now, although Cane argued against mandatory student masking and later supported Gov. Ron DeSantis’ controversial positions on race, LGBTQ issues and parental rights in schools, Oudshoff said he has not seen her stand up for conservative values.

“She has not stood up and pushed back against all of these things that we’ve talked about,” said Oudshoff, 44, who also has declared that God told him to reclaim spiritual authority over Pinellas’ children.

“She needs to be bold and courageous and stand up against these things,” he said. “And I’m going to do that.”

Cane, 35, won her first election in countywide District 2 with 51% in a runoff vote.

This time, she faces middle school English teacher Brad DeCorte, a 65-year-old Democrat, along with Oudshoff, a Republican who works for an ophthalmology practice.

School Board positions are nonpartisan, but that fact has not stopped party leaders from taking sides. The Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association is supporting DeCorte. Cane, who is creative director at a fine arts school, is endorsed by Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls, a Republican.

Earlier this year, DeSantis called on School Board candidates across Florida to indicate if they stood with him on 10 positions including “educate, don’t indoctrinate” and “reject the use of critical race theory in the curriculum.”

Pinellas County School Board member Lisa Cane signed this pledge, indicating she supports Gov. Ron DeSantis's positions on educational issues.
Pinellas County School Board member Lisa Cane signed this pledge, indicating she supports Gov. Ron DeSantis's positions on educational issues. [ Times staff ]

Cane and Oudshoff signed the pledge.

A mother of four, Cane said she is Catholic and lives a conservative life. She said her values mirror those of “any mom in the car line.” She defended her support of a controversial law that restricts discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the lower grades by saying “it’s just common sense.” She is not swayed by critics who say lawmakers manufactured the problem to stoke homophobia, arguing there must have been a problem if a law was needed.

Cane’s biggest issue is arts education — not just for its own sake, but because it has been shown to improve academic performance. She also would like to see more opportunities for students to learn workforce skills.

DeCorte, who teaches at Tarpon Springs Middle School, wants to see more equity in the schools, including a diverse workforce, more preschool and closer ties between schools and communities.

He’s against the “anti-woke” laws.

“I see them as a distraction,” DeCorte said. “I’ve been in the classroom 22 years, and age-appropriate is where we go. Even when they say parents’ rights — parents rights for what group? Doesn’t seem to be parents’ rights for the people of color who can’t get their history taught properly.”

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While not overly critical of Cane, DeCorte said that, based on her endorsement of DeSantis’ ideas, he does not believe she is as committed as he is to public schools. “I’m looking at the teachers in the public schools and the students in the public schools,” he said.

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