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The 'Opie factor'

Ron Howard says he deserves the credit for finishing first in the Sept. 2 Democratic primary for Florida commissioner of education.

Others say he was the top vote-getter because he shares a name with the famous child actor-turned-movie producer. The phenomenon is being dubbed the ''Opie factor'' after the TV character played by the actor in the 1960s.

"I don't think that had anything to do with [the primary win]," said Florida's Mr. Howard, a former teacher and Palm Beach County commissioner. "This has been going on for 20 years, and I wish it would go away."

Mr. Howard, who received 39 percent of the primary votes, will face former state House Speaker Peter Rudy Wallace in an Oct. 1 runoff. Mr. Wallace could not be reached for comment.

According to Mr. Howard, voters liked his pledges to extend the school year to 210 days and send more state lottery money to schools. An ardent foe of publicly funded vouchers for private schools, he also wants to devote 40 percent of the state's annual revenue to schools.

"We need education answers for education problems, not political ones," Mr. Howard added.

Shepherd backlash

In trying to use humor in a television commercial promoting school reform in Oregon, the state education department has offended two legislators who represent agricultural districts.

In the offending spot, which was developed by a Portland advertising agency that has created Nike commercials, a guidance counselor tells a student that his schoolwork has prepared him to be...a shepherd. The commercial then says Oregon's schools are changing to prevent such scenarios.

Subsequently, two state representatives--Republicans Carolyn Oakley and Liz VanLeeuwen--called the Oregon Department of Education to complain on behalf of their farming constituents. They said that the spot showed no understanding of the great amount of skill it takes to raise sheep and that they'd like to see the ad pulled.

Tanya M. Gross, an education department spokeswoman, said while she's sorry the spot offends some people, the department plans to continue to run it. "When we said 'shepherd,' we were thinking of Heidi and her flock of goats in the Alps. We weren't thinking of a modern-day sheep rancher in Oregon," she said.


Vol. 18, Issue 2, Page 16

Published in Print: September 16, 1998, as State Journal

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