Breaking with his Republican Party cohorts in a typically deep-red state, Georgia education chief John Barge announced that he was endorsing Democrat Valarie Wilson for the state chief’s job, in a joint press conference on Oct. 23.
Barge, who made an unsuccessful bid for the GOP nomination for governor this year, said that Wilson had the relevant experience and mindset to be a strong K-12 boss in the Peach State. Wilson, who got the Democratic nomination over state Rep. Alisha Morgan earlier this year, is the former head of the Decatur city school board and the state school boards association. She’s supported by labor organizations in the state.
(Check out my on-the-ground reporting of the Georgia gubernatorial and superintendent races from nearly a month ago.)
“To me, education should be a nonpartisan issue. I have my own brain and I can do my own research,” Barge told my colleague Alyson Klein in an interview the same day. "[Wilson] understands leading a school district and the relationship between a superintendent and a board member ... Our children’s education is at stake.”
Barge’s deputy, Michael Buck, ran for the Republican nomination for state chief, but was beaten out by Richard Woods, a long-time teacher and school administrator who has made opposition to the Common Core State Standards and to the state’s testing regimen key parts of his campaign. By contrast, Buck said he was proud of the way the state has implemented the standards, and Barge remains a common-core supporter.
Wilson, not surprisingly, was keen to highlight Barge’s endorsement:
“Valarie Wilson is the only candidate in this race who understands the real issues facing public education in GA.” - John Barge #gapol
— Valarie Wilson (@ValForEducation) October 24, 2014
With two viable Democrats above her on the ballot in U.S. Senate hopeful Michelle Nunn and gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter, Wilson is in a close race with Woods, according to polling.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.