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School Board Candidates Offer Competing Views in At-Large Race

Board of Education At-Large Candidates
Four of the five candidates contesting the arimary election for two at-large school board seats, clockwise from top left: Pauline Bruno, Robin Calcutt, Rollie Sampson and Ken Benway.

Moore County voters this month will eliminate one of the five Board of Education candidates running for two at-large seats in a race that could ultimately shift the board’s voting dynamics.

There are three seats on the Moore County Board of Education up for grabs this November: two at-large seats open to any county resident, and the District III seat representing northern Moore County. All three are elected countywide.

Libby Carter and Ed Dennison, who have served in the school board’s at-large seats for seven and 12 years, respectively, are not running for re-election. Vying to replace them are five newcomers: Ken Benway, Pauline Bruno, Robin Calcutt, Forrest Leach and Rollie Sampson.

Board of Education races are nonpartisan, but primaries are required when the number of candidates exceeds twice the number of available seats. The top four vote-getters in the May 17 primary will move to the general election in November, when the District III race will also be contested between Shannon Davis and incumbent Pam Thompson.

Candidates in the at-large race offer a combination of experiences in the military and in the field of education.

Benway and Bruno are running as a slate in alignment with the three board members elected in 2020. Those board members — Robert Levy, David Hensley and Philip Holmes — opposed face mask requirements, waged debates over social studies curriculum and Critical Race Theory and obstructed social-emotional learning surveys with allegedly “communist” leanings over the last 18 months. But the three have routinely found themselves in a minority voting bloc against the other board members.

Calcutt, a career Moore County Schools educator and administrator, and Sampson, who currently works as the district’s military family liaison, are also running mates on a platform based on boosting teacher morale and rebuilding schools’ culture after the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, and addressing state funding shortfalls while moving away from partisan politics.

Leach, a Seven Lakes resident, did not respond to multiple requests by The Pilot for an interview.

Ken Benway

A native of Massachusetts, Ken Benway moved to Whispering Pines in 2004 from Fayetteville after retiring from a 27-year career as an Army officer and Green Beret. Benway helps run two organizations dedicated to supporting veterans in pursuit of public office, and is now running his own first campaign.

Benway points to Moore County Schools’ 2021 state test scores, which showed that just under half of the district’s students do math on grade level, as evidence that the schools are falling short. The district’s reading scores were slightly better, but overall last spring’s testing showed that students across North Carolina fell behind in reading and math during the pandemic.

But Benway said that in addition to the academic backslide, he’s running because of “a very clear ideological challenge” that’s played out in school board meetings across the nation over the last year or so.

“I think that school boards across the country have become flashpoints where Judeo-Christianity and Marxism are facing off toe-to-toe, and only one is going to win,” said Benway. “We’re hoping it’s going to be us, certainly, on the Judeo-Christian side, because the trophy is the kids. Whoever wins gets our kids.”

Those battles over how schools should deal with race and racism in social studies curriculum trickled down to the Moore County school board, as have debates over surveys gauging students’ opinions of their school environment and the content of children’s and young adult novels on the shelves of school libraries.

If elected, Benway said he plans to push for an overhaul in Moore County Schools’ strategic plan, the goals and objectives that each board adopts to guide the work of administrators and staff, to erase “collectivist aspects” like reference to students as global citizens.

“I believe that everybody ought to be a Renaissance person, man or woman, ‘be all you can be’ as the Army used to say. I think we want to create the conditions where kids can excel to the extent of their potential,” he said.

To that end, it’s his goal to reduce the number of students on each teacher’s roster. That’s something the current board has tried to accomplish since it cut teachers to balance the budget in 2018, but Benway thinks it can be accomplished without additional revenue by cutting district-level positions.

“We have more independence I think here in Moore County, at the county level and the school system than we like to think,” said Benway.

He also wants to move toward expanding Moore County Schools’ police force so that more schools have a full-time dedicated officer, and toward offering teachers bonuses based on students’ performance. Whether that “performance” should be measured entirely based on state test scores would be a matter for further exploration.

“How you express that in a manageable process I’m not certain yet. But there’s got to be more than just tests to evaluate the student,” Benway said. “The teacher is the best person to evaluate that student, but at the end they’ve got to make the grade to graduate from high school.”

Pauline Bruno

When the school board started hearing concerns about social studies curriculum and Critical Race Theory last spring, one of the most consistent voices was Pauline Bruno’s.

Bruno, who was president of the Moore Republican Women at the time, gathered petitions from residents fearful that theories dealing with the role of racism in the country’s legal institutions had trickled down to primary and secondary school. Last year the furor pushed the school board to adopt an “equality and nondiscrimination” policy that narrowed how teachers can handle those topics.

Bruno held certification as a special education teacher in Connecticut before moving to Pinehurst in 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in special education and a master’s in reading education.

“I think we have absolutely great teachers here. I think our teachers are phenomenal,” she said. “I think they’re putting too much of a burden on our teachers to teach all the social stuff when the teachers need to teach the core subjects.”

Bruno said that her primary concern is getting more students to grade-level faster, especially minority students. At many schools, a much lower proportion of minorities perform at grade level than their white peers.

“If anybody should be pounding the doors down at the public schools, it should be the Black community. They should be pounding on the windows,” she said.

“I do understand that we graduate great kids, and they have great careers, and they get great scholarships, but it’s not everybody. These kids are going to learn no matter where they go to school.”

If elected, Bruno plans to advocate for a shift away from the use of technology and digitally based learning activities before fourth grade. Third grade is considered a proving ground for students struggling to obtain age-appropriate literacy skills. Students not on grade level by that point are more likely to remain behind for the remainder of their schooling.

“My opinion, and this is what I’m going to bring up, first through third grade, get rid of the computers,” said Bruno. “Go back to the textbooks where parents know ‘We’re on Page One tonight, tomorrow we’ll be on Page Three.’ We have to go back to the old-fashioned basics of reading, writing and arithmetic.”

Like Benway, Bruno is skeptical of the school board’s consistent requests for an increase in Moore County Schools’ local operating budget. As a board member she said she’d like to see a detailed “line-item” budget every year.

“I disagree with ‘We need more money, we need more money.’ The United States has been throwing money since the 70s at schools. I don’t believe, in my opinion, that it really helps,” she said.

“I’m all for teachers, I was a teacher my whole life. I’m all for teachers, I understand what they do, I know how hard they work. I think we have to make life easier for the teachers.”

Robin Calcutt

Robin Calcutt grew up in Pinehurst, the daughter of an elementary school teacher and a fireman, and now lives in Southern Pines.

She started teaching in 1984 at Elise and Westmoore, dividing her time between multiple schools like many electives teachers still do. Calcutt went on to become a lead teacher for instructional technology at Union Pines, a forerunner of today’s digital integration facilitators. She later served as a principal at New Century and West Pine middle schools and retired from Moore County Schools in 2018 as director of planning, accountability and research.

“I had such a variety of opportunities and jobs within Moore County Schools, I wasn’t bored,” said Calcutt. “I was all over the county and served in different capacities, so I had so much variety I didn’t feel the need to move and go anywhere else.”

Calcutt holds a doctoral degree in education leadership and now teaches at St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, where she’s chair of the education department. Supervising college students getting their first teaching experiences in public schools around the region gave her a front-row seat to what happened when the pandemic set in two years ago.

Even student teachers, who were no longer allowed into the schools, had to pinch hit to put together packets to send home and help transition to virtual learning. Calcutt decided to run for school board when the district came under fire for how it handled reopening during the pandemic.

That criticism evolved into debates over everyday classroom teachings — which Calcutt says her former colleagues interpreted as a vote of no confidence from some board members and residents.

“I started hearing that cry for help and I started seeing the sad faces on our teachers and hearing they were planning on leaving, then I started to see my friends take jobs in other districts,” she said.

“I knew I had to step up for them and for the students and paint a clear picture of what’s been going on in our schools and to be the voice of reason and experience. Our community has to support our public schools and not believe all the rhetoric and chaos that’s going on in the political realm.”

If elected, Calcutt said that her first priority would be to repair relationships between teachers, staff and parents by making greater use of district-level parent advisory councils representing various demographics, as well as involving more parents in each school’s improvement team.

“We’ve got to have a culture of collaboration and trust and confidence. We’ve got to make sure that our teachers feel supported, that we continue to do good work,” she said. “So we’ve got to continually work on that culture. That includes a culture for our parents. I think our parents are feeling left out of the work of the schools and we’ve got to revisit that.”

Rollie Sampson

Rollie Sampson became Moore County Schools’ first district military family liaison in 2017, 12 years after her husband’s Army career brought her here.

Sampson herself previously served, leaving active duty as a first lieutenant after an injury. As a military spouse she thrust herself into advocating for students and community youth organizations wherever she lived.

As military family liaison, Sampson has helped the district identify its military-connected students, receive more federal aid and allocate resources accordingly. She also helps smooth those students’ transitions in and out of the district, especially when it comes to building high school transcripts toward graduation despite attending high schools in different states. She’s planning to leave the position by the fall, or as soon as the district hires a replacement.

Sampson also earned a master’s degree in counseling while working for the schools. She said she started to consider running for the Board of Education last year, when the board started to devote more attention to national controversies than local matters.

She said that she isn’t the only school staff member who feels that the board’s newer members are out of touch with what’s “actually happening in the schools.” including several dozen vacant teaching positions and the effect of budget cuts on the day-to-day workings of the schools.

“When they say we need to save money, let’s talk about how much we’ve already trimmed off our budget. Our population is going up while our revenue that we get from the county and state is not,” she said. “I think we’re missing those conversations at the school board level.”

Those cuts have included popular year-round and dual language programs, as well as teaching positions in fourth grade and up that have led to ballooning class sizes in those grades.

“We need to be adamant as a school district and a community that we want those resources returned that were taken from our classrooms a decade ago,” said Sampson. “We want our teaching assistants back, we want our class sizes reduced, and that is a Raleigh issue.”

When it comes to improving students’ test scores, Sampson said that the solutions to those problems should be identified by teachers.

“I think if you really want to see improvement in the classroom, you go to the person that is the subject matter expert and ask them what they need,” she said.

As a board member, Sampson pledged to thoroughly research matters that come before the board and listen to all perspectives before making a decision or even offering an opinion.

“When I hear about a controversial situation, I have a responsibility to make sure I engage with parties on both sides of the issue before making a public statement which may not have all the correct information,” she said.

“I hear comments made before somebody has taken the time to do their due diligence as a board member to really ensure they have all the facts. Even if there are facts that align with what I believe, I have a responsibility to leave my personal preferences outside of that board.”

Early voting is currently underway at the Moore County Agricultural Center in Carthage and at the Aberdeen Recreation Station. Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 14.

Our Response

Our response to a recent (April 21 @ 3:53PM) post by Robert M. Levy, current Moore County Board of Education member, on Facebook (facebook.com/GOPChairman) attacking Moore County Board of Education at-large candidates Rollie Sampson and Robin Calcutt.

The Moore County Democratic Party opposes partisanship on nonpartisan boards, including the Moore County Board of Education.

We oppose policies and candidates who would seek to wield a partisan agenda on a board that is nonpartisan by law.

We oppose undermining the great Moore County and American education system.

We oppose the flagrant partisanship, ineptitude, divisiveness, and lack of an in-depth understanding of the issues facing the Moore County Schools shown by at-large candidates Pauline Bruno and Ken Benway.

We will unite with all of our neighbors—Democratic voters, Republican voters and Unaffiliated voters alike—in support of Moore County Schools and the American ideals we cherish.

Maurice Holland, Jr., Chair

Two of Five Candidates Share Views in School Board Candidate Forum

School BoardCandidate Forum
Flanked by empty seats, at-large school board candidates Robin Calcutt, left and Rollie Sampson, right, field questions from moderator Terrance Ruth in a forum organized by the NAACP of Moore County and Public School Advocates.

The only scheduled public forum in advance of the upcoming Moore County Board of Education primary went off on Thursday with less than half the candidates participating.

Three seats are up for grabs this year in an election that has the potential to flip the political makeup of the board. Since the 2020 election, many high-profile votes on issues like masking, Critical Race Theory and controversial library books have fallen 4-to-3, with the three newest members of the board opposed to the established majority.

Neither of the incumbent board members serving in the board’s two at-large seats, Libby Carter and Ed Dennison, filed for re-election. Five newcomers have filed for those seats — Ken Benway of Whispering Pines, Pauline Bruno of Pinehurst, Robin Calcutt and Rollie Sampson of Southern Pines, and Forrest Leach of Seven Lakes — triggering a primary to pare the field down to four.

All five had originally agreed to appear at Pinehurst’s Village Hall on Thursday in a forum organized by the Moore County NAACP and Public School Advocates. The forum was promoted with the League of Women Voters of Moore County, which routinely organizes forums for general and non-partisan races, as a co-sponsor.

Peggy Crawford of the League of Women Voters initially took the lead in organizing the forum and communicating with candidates.

After the forum was publicized as involving all five at-large candidates, Leach, then Bruno and Benway, withdrew. Crawford said they did not offer an alternative date.

“We went back to the group, talked about it and reached out to the three candidates to ask if there was something we could do that would encourage them to come,” Crawford said.

“They said they were pretty much booked between now and when early voting began.”

Although the school board race is nonpartisan, the Moore County Republican Party is supporting Benway and Bruno, although Leach and Calcutt are also Republicans. The local GOP also endorsed the board’s three newest members in 2020.

Crawford said that the League of Women Voters withdrew its sponsorship of the forum after conferring with the state-level organization. Policies of the League, which is nonpartisan, dictate that the group can’t hold a forum without the majority of candidates.

That left Thursday’s forum to go forward with Calcutt and Sampson. Terrance Ruth, a social work professor at N.C. State University and candidate for mayor of Raleigh, moderated.

Both Calcutt and Sampson have spent time as district employees. Calcutt, a Moore County native, worked for Moore County Schools for 34 years before retiring in 2018. During her tenure she taught at Union Pines and served as principal at New Century and West Pine middle schools before being promoted to district director for planning, accountability and research.

Calcutt is now a professor and chair of the education department at St. Andrews University in Laurinburg.

Sampson moved to Moore County in 2005 with her husband’s Army career. A veteran herself, she has served as a teacher in Moore County Schools and became the district’s first military family liaison in 2017. She has served in that position while earning a master’s degree in counseling. The district is working toward replacing her before the general election.

Both candidates shared similar perspectives on issues facing public education: from ballooning class sizes in fourth grade and up to Moore County Schools’ persistent problems running reliable bus routes.

Many of those problems boil down to the same root cause: lack of funding to attract and keep employees. Sampson, whose children graduated from Pinecrest, said she’s running to address those systemic problems that affect the experiences that all children, not just those connected to the military, have in school.

“I’ve experienced every budget cut as a parent with a child in the school. I’m tired of seeing that happen,” she said. “I’m not running for the board of ed because of that position; I’m running as a parent who’s concerned about the future of our schools.”

When it comes to filling empty teaching positions while simultaneously building a staff whose demographics more closely resemble the students that they teach, Calcutt and Sampson said they would both explore building incentives for high school students to study education and return to Moore County Schools to teach, and to help members of the district’s more diverse support staff qualify to teach.

But they said the district can’t do any of that without more funding from the state and county. State funding hasn’t kept pace with increases in teacher salaries or the district’s enrollment growth over the last decade. The school board has long since cut popular programs like International Baccalaureate at Pinecrest, Spanish immersion at West End Elementary, and year-round calendars at four elementary schools.

The school board’s current budget request to the Moore County Board of Commissioners seeks to gain back from the most recent round of budget cuts in 2018 — when 15 teaching positions were cut — and to increase pay for support staff like custodians, cafeteria workers and teacher assistants.

“I do recognize and appreciate the county commissioners and their role, but I believe that if we’re going to have the Moore County that we want, we have to be fully funded with our budget,” said Calcutt.

“I was really excited to see the 7-0 budget approval from our current board. That was a good sign. I think if we’re going to stay innovative and competitive and make sure that our students have access to what they need for their futures, then we have to fully fund it. Our people are not asking for fluff: they’re asking for what we need to do the job of educating our students.”

In the last few years Moore County Schools’ student test scores have come under closer scrutiny. Proficiency rates vary by school, but schools serving a significant population of economically disadvantaged students tend to have higher proportions of students who read and do math below grade level.

Both Calcutt and Sampson said that expanding preschool access would go far toward providing a more level playing field for students when they enter kindergarten. Sampson is also a proponent of hiring more teaching assistants for the lower grades so that struggling students can receive more individualized attention.

“If we really want to see better outcomes and scores in those lower grades for our at-risk students, then we put the resources back in the classroom that we know they need,” she said. “We all know it, yet we’re not doing it and we haven’t done it for a decade.”

When asked how they would handle challenges to controversial content, like the recent challenge to the children’s novel “George” at Union Pines and McDeeds Creek Elementary, both Calcutt and Sampson said they would support the decision of school staff and the districtwide committees assembled to evaluate those challenges.

Calcutt said that keeping the best teachers in the district requires a culture of respect for them as licensed professionals. She hopes to be elected to a school board that embraces a culture based on pursuing what’s best for students rather than scoring political points.

“That culture means a lot, and I want to say, right now, that it’s going to take the community. It can’t just be the Board of Education members doing this work,” she said.

“It’s got to come from each one of us. … If we want our schools to be successful, then we have to step up and let everyone know that we want a culture that cares and wants to have the best education possible for the children of Moore County.”

Ginni Thomas also texted Meadows about another friend who shared election fraud conspiracy theories

By Katelyn Polantz and Andrew Kaczynski, CNN

Updated 12:43 PM ET, Wed April 20, 2022Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, arrives to watch Amy Coney Barrett take the Constitutional Oath on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, October 26, 2020. Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, arrives to watch Amy Coney Barrett take the Constitutional Oath on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, October 26, 2020.

(CNN) A day before the 2020 presidential election, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas mugged for the camera wearing a Trump baseball cap with her friend Connie Hair, chief of staff to GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, at an event supporting the then-President in pictures posted on Facebook at the time.

A month later, in her now-infamous texts to Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, referred to Hair and claims about election fraud while urging Meadows to fight the election result.

Around that same time, Hair’s boss, Gohmert, filed or supported two lawsuits challenging the election that eventually landed before the Supreme Court.

Ginni Thomas’ years-long relationship with Hair, including social outings that Clarence Thomas attended, as well as her texting with Meadows add another dimension to an ongoing debate over whether her husband should recuse himself from cases related to the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection, especially when his wife is closely aligned to people who advocated overturning the election.

To be sure, Thomas and Hair were voicing their opinions on the election. At the same time, however, Hair was a top aide to a congressman who would file or sign on to election litigation that landed before the court where Thomas sits. And Hair herself posted on Facebook about the need to fight in court over the election.

“Was on a call with the Trump campaign manager and legal folks for a briefing this morning. WE ARE SEEING THIS THROUGH TO THE END OF THE COURT/COUNT BATTLE,” Hair posted on November 7, four days after the election. And on November 21, Hair posted: “Massive amounts of voter fraud in big cities throughout the contested states.”

It’s rare for the spouse of a Supreme Court justice to be so politically active, and legal ethicists say a line may be crossed when Ginni Thomas’ interests collide with her husband’s work. Some say the reputation of the Supreme Court is at stake.

“Mrs. Thomas has a First Amendment right to speak publicly and forcefully on issues that might come before the Supreme Court without thereby forcing recusal of her husband,” said Stephen Gillers of NYU School of Law. “But in the current situation, her interests are caught up in cases that could come before the court.”Gillers believes that Clarence Thomas should recuse himself from any upcoming cases concerning the Capitol attack. Following the revelation of the Meadows texts, Democratic senators have introduced legislation meant to address questions of recusal and other ethics issues.Washington is a town where powerful people frequently hobnob, and Ginni Thomas maintains she kept her conservative political activism separate from her marriage. Her husband has not commented publicly on calls for him to recuse — or even resign — after his wife’s texts to Meadows were revealed.A friend of the Thomases who is familiar with the situation contends Ginni Thomas and Hair say they did not talk about specific cases that Gohmert was involved in and that Hair did not know about Gohmert’s lawsuits before they were filed.”Hair is a friend of Ginni Thomas,” the source said. “They had a general concern about the election.”In the end, the high court took neither Gohmert’s lawsuit against then-Vice President Mike Pence, nor a case from Texas that Gohmert supported against states that Donald Trump lost.Ginni Thomas declined to comment to CNN through a lawyer.Hair didn’t respond to emailed questions about her interactions with the Thomases, nor did Gohmert’s office.Earlier this month, Gohmert defended the ethics of both Ginni and Clarence Thomas on the House floor, saying Ginni Thomas’ activism shouldn’t put pressure on the justice to recuse from any cases. Thomas returned to the bench in person at the Supreme Court this week, after being hospitalized for an illness around the same time that the news of his wife’s communications with the Trump White House about the election broke.”Now, Justice Thomas is being told he needs to recuse himself because he has a wife who thinks for herself. We can’t have that, these liberals say. Yet the hypocrisy rises higher and higher with every comment they make about Justice Thomas and/or his wife,” Gohmert said in his speech.”What happened to the old ideas of liberals being these caring, compassionate people who would never judge one’s spouse by the acts or thoughts of the other?” Gohmert added. “Well, those have gone by the wayside, and we see exactly what is at play here.”Ginni Thomas also has a close friendship with Meadows, and a case involving him landed before the Supreme Court in recent months. In that case, the court allowed the release of hundreds of documents from the Trump White House to the House select committee investigating January 6. Clarence Thomas was the only one to publicly dissent.The documents in that case did not include Meadows’ texts with Ginni Thomas that he had voluntarily turned over to the committee. The committee has said it will seek to interview Ginni Thomas, CNN has reported.

Dinners with friends

The Thomases have kept in contact with Hair for years, according to several photos and messages shared on Facebook by Hair and others and obtained by CNN.In 2016, Hair posted about attending a Colbie Caillat concert, sending her thanks for a “fun” evening to Ginni Thomas. Hair posed for photos with Clarence Thomas and at dinner with him, his wife and others the night of the concert, according to Facebook posts.Hair has worked in Gohmert’s office since 2010, according to congressional staffing records.In 2017, she took a new round of pictures with Clarence and Ginni Thomas, this time inside the justice’s chambers. That day, January 20, 2017, Clarence Thomas had sworn in Pence as vice president. In her Facebook post, Hair calls the Thomases “great friends.”And in 2019, Hair took part in a meeting at the White House with Trump and Ginni Thomas to discuss hiring more Trump loyalists in his administration, according to a senior Trump administration official.Over the past decade, Ginni Thomas and Hair’s photos together and posts tagging each other are numerous.Then after the 2020 election and January 6 Capitol riot, Hair on her Facebook wall shared coverage of Clarence Thomas dissenting on a Supreme Court election case, writing, “GOD BLESS HIM.” The case was a too-late attempt by Pennsylvania Republicans to challenge the state’s use of mail-in ballots, and Thomas expressed a fear that mail-in balloting could allow for fraud in future elections.And in text messages to Meadows, which CNN obtained last month, Ginni Thomas quotes Hair in November 2020 as she implores the Trump White House to stick with its claims of election fraud.”This war is psychological. PSYOP. It’s what I did in the military. They are using every weapon they have to try to make us quit… It is fake, fraud and if people would take a deep breath and look at things through that filter we will see this through and win,” Ginni Thomas texted Meadows on November 14, 2020.She then cites Hair’s name in the text, implying the words came from her friend. The source familiar with the Thomases said Ginni Thomas was cutting and pasting Hair’s own words from another text chain, to send to Meadows.

Gohmert headed to SCOTUS

Soon after these texts, Gohmert’s office took part in two cases that challenged the election result at the Supreme Court.

First, Texas’ attorney general went straight to the high court to sue Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin — all swing states Joe Biden had won — claiming they had conducted their elections unconstitutionally.

The case theoretically could have given the Supreme Court the power to throw out the presidential election result. Gohmert was one of 126 Republican members of Congress to sign on to an amicus brief supporting Texas before the high court.

On December 11, just days after the case had been filed, a majority of justices rejected the attempt, saying Texas had not shown it had the legal right to challenge how another state conducts its election.

Clarence Thomas signed on to a two-sentence statement, penned by Justice Samuel Alito, arguing a procedural point that the court should not have dismissed the case outright because it fell under the court’s “original jurisdiction.” But importantly, Thomas and Alito did note that they would grant no other relief to Texas in the case.

A source close to Thomas believes that the justice’s position on that case and others shows he was not swayed by his wife’s interests.

Even with that swift loss at the Supreme Court, Gohmert’s office wasn’t finished aiming election challenges at the high court.

In late December, Gohmert tried with a case of his own. The congressman sued Pence directly. The lawsuit asked the court to force Pence to stop the Electoral College certification of Biden’s win.

That prompted Pence’s lawyers to speak up in court, asking a federal judge to dismiss Gohmert’s case. It was a crucial early moment of the vice president publicly defending his role of presiding over the Senate. Pence has stood by his position that the vice president couldn’t overturn the election and courts should not have either.

The Gohmert case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court on January 6, the day of the Electoral College certification.

“Our nation stands at the crossroads of a Constitutional crisis fraught by chaos and turmoil brought into play by a viral plague, anti-democratic interference from domestic and foreign sources, and hastily enacted State voting measures ostensibly placed to protect voters from catching the plague,” Gohmert’s filing said.

The court denied its request the next day, with no dissents noted.

CNN’s Ariane de Vogue, Ryan Nobles, Zachary Cohen and Gabby Orr contributed to this report.