Former Union President Wins Chief's Race in Wash.
The highest-profile state superintendent's race in the history of Washington state began with a crowded field of candidates vying for election and ended last week with Terry Bergeson, a longtime educator, still standing.
At one time 11 candidates were vying for the position vacated by Judith A. Billings, who is stepping down as schools chief after two terms. ("11 Duke It Out in High-Profile Race for Schools Chief in Wash.," Sept. 11, 1996.)
After a primary reduced the field to two, Ms. Bergeson, a former teacher, principal, school administrator, and past president of the Washington Education Association, squared off against millionaire real estate developer Ron Taber. She won with 64 percent of the vote for the nonpartisan office.
Four years ago, Ms. Bergeson lost to Ms. Billings. This time, she was pleased with her easy win.
"I am just excited about serving the people of this state. I'm glad I lost last time, because it gave me the chance to work for three years and do the substantive work," Ms. Bergeson said. "Nobody knows all the work I've done to build the trust of the districts."
For the past three years, Ms. Bergeson has headed the governor's Commission on Student Learning, which has been writing academic standards for the state's 900,000 students.
"I ran on a reform platform. I knew that everything that commission was about was on trial," Ms. Bergeson said. She repeated her campaign argument that she is the best person to lead the state through the process of raising standards and adjusting to the tests connected to them.
"Ms. Bergeson is to be congratulated," Mr. Taber said. "The other side ran a smart campaign, and we were out-organized and out-hustled. It's up to her now to make good on her promises."
In North Carolina, Democrat Mike Ward, a former Granville County superintendent, last week handed his Republican opponent Vernon Robinson a second loss for the state superintendent's post.
Mr. Ward's opposition to school vouchers, which Mr. Robinson supports, made for a sharp contrast in the candidates' visions for the state's schools. But it remains to be seen how much of Mr. Ward's vision will come into play, since the state has stripped the superintendent's position of any real power. Almost two years ago, the control of the office was placed in the hands of the state board of education, leaving the superintendent with no independent authority.
Mr. Ward will replace Bob Etheridge, who held the post for two terms and last week won a seat in Congress.
Incumbents won in three other state chief's elections held Nov. 5 in Indiana, Montana, and North Dakota.
In Indiana, where other Republican candidates for state offices stumbled, state schools chief Suellen Reed retained her office. Ms. Reed held off Democratic challenger Ann McBride England, an elementary school principal, with 53 percent of the vote.
Ms. Reed will be on familiar ground in her second term as she will once again be working with a Democratic governor, the newly elected Frank O'Bannon, currently the lieutenant governor.
In a decisive win, Montana's state superintendent, Democratic incumbent Nancy Keenan, beat Republican challenger Wayne Buchanan, the executive secretary of the state school board. Ms. Keenan garnered 58 percent of the vote.
And Wayne G. Sanstead, who has been the state superintendent in North Dakota since 1985, will have another four years in office. The former legislator and lieutenant governor had an easy victory over Ray Holmberg, a Republican state senator and school guidance counselor. Mr. Sanstead took more than 60 percent of the vote in the nonpartisan election.
Board Seats Shuffled
In races for seats on state school boards, the Republican majority that has recently guided the Michigan board was eliminated. Democrats won two open seats, creating a 4-4 split.
In Kansas, Republicans will maintain an 8-2 majority on the state board after five seats were decided last week. Observers say that this year's GOP candidates took a much more partisan tone than was typical in the past. Officials in the state will wait and see whether the board gains a more noticeable political edge.
More than half of the 15 seats on the Texas state board were up for grabs as eight districts in the state held elections. Jack Christie, the Republican chairman of the board, took 80 percent of the vote to win easily over his opponent.
The balance of the Texas board, which favored Republicans by a 9-6 margin, did not change in the election.
Vol. 16, Issue 11