Runoff Forced for Superintendency in California
Sacramento--A dark-horse candidate who spent $1.2 million on his campaign to become California's Superintendent of Public Instruction and who called for more homework, more discipline, and more mathematics, won enough votes in last week's primary election to force a run-off next November.
Bill Honig, superintendent of the Reed Elementary School District in Marin County, trailed Wilson C. Riles, the incumbent state school chief, by some 750,000 votes in the primary, but he led the field of seven other candidates.
Mr. Riles had to receive more than 50 percent of the vote to win the election; he actually received 1,930,408 votes--40.6 percent. Mr. Honig received 1,183,942 votes--24.9 percent. In his two other campaigns for re-election to the non-partisan four-year post, he avoided a November run-off by winning a majority of votes; in 1974, he received 58.4 percent of the primary vote, and in 1978, 52.2 percent.
Running in third place behind Mr. Honig, Richard Ferraro, a member of the board of the Los Angeles Unified School District and a leading foe of court-ordered busing and bilingual education, received 11.5 percent of the vote.
Gene Prat, a former aide to Senator S.I. Hayakawa, who is a Republican and now an official of San Francisco State University, received 5.1 percent of the vote. If elected, he said, he would dismantle most of the California State Department of Education and return most of the control to local school boards.
Mr. Riles, who serves this year as president of the Council of Chief State School Officers, campaigned on his twelve-year record, pointing with particular pride to two state categorical programs he initiated--the California School Improvement Program and the Master Plan for Special Education.
His major supporters included the California Teachers Association and the American Federation of Teachers.
Two of his chief political supporters were Willie Brown, Democratic speaker of the California State Assembly, and U.S. Sena-tor Alan Cranston, a Democrat.
During his campaign, Mr. Honig, who has also been a teacher in a San Francisco ghetto school and for seven years a member of the California state board of education, repeatedly pointed to the falling test scores of California's high-school students over the past 12 years and placed part of the blame on Mr. Riles. He said Mr. Riles failed to support his efforts as a member of the state board of education to raise academic requirements for graduation from high school.
Mr. Honig's campaign expenditures totaling $1.2 million were designed to gain name recognition and to get his campaign message to the voters. A Honig aide said $435,000 was spent on television ads in the last few weeks before the election.
A scion of a wealthy family, Mr. Honig raised large sums in loans from family members and also used his own resources.
Mr. Riles said his campaign cost "approximately $500,000, with $220,000 of that amount spent on TV ads during the seven days before the polls closed."
As a result of Mr. Honig's television blitz, his public support rose from 2 percent in March to 20 percent in late May and early June, according to the California Field poll. During that same period, Mr. Riles's support, according to the same poll, remained unchanged at approximately 40 percent.
'Discussion on the Issues'
At a press conference the day after the election, Mr. Riles said he was disappointed that he did not win. But he added: "I am looking forward to getting into an active discussion on the issues with Mr. Honig. I believe he is running on a campaign of the 1920's, whereas I will be campaigning on a platform to prepare youngsters for the 1990's."
When asked by a reporter whether he would participate in public debates with Mr. Honig, Mr. Riles replied, "I will debate him tomorrow."
Mr. Riles credits his first election victory for state school chief in 1970 to the debates he participated in with his opponent and boss at that time, Max Rafferty, who was running for re-election for a third term as state superintendent of schools. Mr. Rafferty had gained national prominence during his eight years as the state leader of California's public schools. In that election, Mr. Riles received 54 percent of the vote to Mr. Rafferty's 46 percent.
In a news conference in San Francisco last week, Mr. Honig said he would debate Mr. Riles as long as "we talk about the issues."
When asked for his reaction to the election results, Mr. Honig said: "There is no way Mr. Riles can win in November when this election shows that almost 60 percent of California voters want a change in leadership. Twelve years is enough. I have developed a broad coalition of support around the state from various business, civic, and education leaders that will continue to grow in the months ahead."
The position of state school chief in California pays an annual salary of $42,500.
Vol. 01, Issue 38