School & District Management

GOP Scores Big in State Superintendents’ Races

By Sean Cavanagh — November 09, 2010 1 min read
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The Republican victory party in this year’s elections extended to state school superintendents’ races, with GOP candidates sweeping all six partisan contests for those positions on the Nov. 2 ballot.

In the seventh race in contention this fall, Democratic state Assemblyman Tom Torlakson defeated former school administrator Larry Aceves for schools chief of California, in a nonpartisan contest. Mr. Torlakson will replace term-limited Superintendent Jack O’Connell.

A number of the winning Republican candidates promised to support charter schools and school choice, though their ability to do so will almost certainly depend on the wishes of the governor and legislature in their states—and on the condition of K-12 budgets.

Superintendents

ARIZONA
Penny Kotterman, (D)
✓John Huppenthal, (R)
Mr. Huppenthal, a state senator, replaces Republican schools chief Tom Horne, who was elected as Arizona’s attorney general.

CALIFORNIA
Larry Aceves
✓Tom Torlakson
(nonpartisan race)
Mr. Torlakson, who was backed by two major teachers’ unions, says the state should engage teachers and school administrators on evaluation and tenure policies.

GEORGIA
Jon Martin, (D)
✓John Barge, (R)
Kira Griffiths Willis, Libertarian
Mr. Barge, a school administrator, has called for reducing the amount of highstakes testing and rebuilding career-and-technical education programs, which he says are being ignored.

IDAHO
Stan Olson, (D)
✓Tom Luna, (R)
Mr. Luna, the incumbent, was once an advisor on rural issues to U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige under President George W. Bush.

OKLAHOMA
Susan Paddack, (D)
✓Janet Barresi, (R)
Richard E. Cooper, (I)
Ms. Barresi, a former school speech pathologist who has helped found charter schools, replaces longtime state Superintendent Sandy Garrett.

OREGON
✓Susan Castillo
Ron Maurer
(nonpartisan race)
In May, incumbent state schools Superintendent Susan Castillo won re-election, defeating state Rep. Ron Maurer in a nonpartisan race.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Frank Holleman, (D)
✓Mick Zais, (R)
Mr. Zais, a former college president, campaigned on the idea of allowing families to use tax credits to pay private tuition costs.

WYOMING
Mike Massie, (D)
✓Cindy Hill, (R)
Ms. Hill, a former junior high school principal, defeated incumbent schools chief Jim McBride in the GOP primary, and Mr. Massie, a state senator, in the general election.

= Winner

In South Carolina, Republican Mick Zais, a former college president and retired U.S. Army brigadier general, defeated Democrat Frank Holleman, a former adviser in the U.S. Department of Education. Mr. Zais, 63, said he would work with South Carolina’s GOP-controlled legislature and Republican Gov.-elect Nikki R. Haley to change the state’s school funding formula.

The goal is to make the formula “simpler and clearer, so that we can get more money to the classroom,” Mr. Zais said in an interview. “To a greater degree, the dollars should follow the child.”

In neighboring Georgia, school administrator John Barge, a Republican, won the superintendent’s post, defeating Democrat Joe Martin and Libertarian Kira Griffiths Willis. In Oklahoma, Republican Janet Barresi, who has helped found charter schools, won her race against Democrat Susan Paddack and Independent Richard E. Cooper.

Several western states also hosted contests, with experienced educators and elected officials on the ballot. In Arizona, GOP state Sen. John Huppenthal secured a victory over Democrat Penny Kotterman, and will replace superintendent Tom Horne, who was elected state attorney general. Republican Cindy Hill, a former junior high school principal, won Wyoming’s contest, beating Democratic state senator Mike Massie. And in Idaho, Republican incumbent Tom Luna won his re-election contest against Democrat Stan Olson.

Another race for state schools chief was decided earlier year. Oregon schools superintendent Susan Castillo narrowly won re-election over challenger Ron Maurer in a nonpartisan race held in May.

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A version of this article appeared in the November 10, 2010 edition of Education Week as GOP Scores Big in State Chiefs’ Contests

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