Governors, State Chiefs, and Ballot Measures: What Voters Decided

By Alyson Klein — November 07, 2018 6 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

This post will updated.

Education spending. Teacher pay. School choice. School safety. A sitting state school superintendent challenging a sitting governor. K-12 education played a huge part in the 2018 midterm elections, especially at the state level.

Here’s how election night shook out when it came to selected, high-profile races of interest to educators:

Governors’ races:


State superintendent Tony Evers, a Democrat, defeated two-term Gov. Scott Walker, who made Wisconsin a right-to-work state, supported school choice, and cut taxes, leading to some $800 million in cuts to K-12 funding. Evers, who was endorsed by the state’s teachers’ union, had pledged to boost education spending by more than $1.7 billion.


U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., defeated Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee. DeSantis pledged to roll back some new gun-control measures signed by GOP Gov. Rick Scott earlier this year in the wake of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Gillum sought to strengthen gun laws.DeSantis, also pledged to expand the state’s tuition tax credit program, which offers individuals and corporations a tax break for donating to organizations that give private school scholarships to low-income students.

Gillum had promised to raise teachers’ salaries, saying there needs to be a $50,000 minimum statewide. He also said he wants to provide a $1 billion boost for public schools, paid for by legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana.


Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, fended off a challenge from David Garcia, a professor of education at Arizona State University. Education funding has been a hot issue in the Grand Canyon State, where a series of GOP-led tax cuts have resulted in funding shortages for districts. Earlier this year, teachers held a one-week strike when Ducey failed to meet their demand to raise education spending by $1 billion. Ducey ultimately promised to boost educators’ salaries by 20 percent by 2020. But Ducey has also pledged to cut taxes if re-elected, a move that left some educators wondering if he would be able to meet his K-12 spending commitments.

Garcia had promised to close tax-loopholes for corporations, scrap tax credits for private school tuition, and potentially impose new taxes on the wealthy. He also wanted to invest in early-childhood education and offer two years of free community college.

New Mexico

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, defeated GOP U.S. Rep Steve Pearce. Lujan Grisham campaigned on getting rid of the state’s A through F grading system, ditching the PARCC test, and moving away from the state’s educator-evaluation system, considered the toughest in the country. She backed better pay and more supports for teachers, and expanded access to prekindergarten.

Pearce also had proposed getting rid of the state’s controversial performance review system, but wanted to keep the PARCC tests and A through F grades. He backed significantly expanding school choice, including charters, magnet schools, e-learning, and home schooling.


Democrat Laura Kelly prevailed over Republican Kris Kobach in a race where education funding was a dominant issue. Former Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, slashed both taxes and K-12 spending. The state supreme court has said Kansas has until the end of the next legislative session to hike education funding or risk having public schools shutdown. Kelly, a state senator, favored complying with the court’s demands and finding new money for public schools.

Kobach, the secretary of state, had said he would fight that decision and seek to make even deeper tax cuts that could squeeze school funding even further.


Kevin Stitt, a businessman who said he would have opposed the tax hike the GOP-controlled legislature approved this year to raise teacher pay, defeated Democrat Drew Edmondson, a former state attorney general. Edmondson campaigned on increasing education funding and hiking teacher pay.


In Illinois, Republican incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner was ousted by Democratic billionaire J.B. Pritzker who ran partly on a platform to pour even more money into the state’s school system. Rauner suffered blistering attacks over a years-long battle to replace that state’s funding formula which left downstate and Chicago public schools financially strapped for cash.


U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Conn., who championed charter schools and bipartisan school privacy legislation in Congress, easily defeated Walker Stapleton, the state treasurer. Polis said he would like to stabilize school funding in Colorado. Stapleton sought to expand school choice in the state.


Former teacher U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat, defeated Republican Jeff Johnson, the Hennepin County commissioner, in the race for governor. Walz sought to index future education budgets to inflation and cut down on class sizes. Johnson favored vouchers or tax credits to help children attend the private school of their choice. He also supported a “parent trigger” law which would allow families to force big changes on low-performing schools.

State Chiefs Races:


This contest was a hard-fought, high-spending campaign between two fierce candidates for state superintendent. Marshall Tuck, who has run both charter and district schools in Los Angeles, had the backing of charter advocates. His proposals included expanded learning time for low-income students and rescinding 2015 guidance to school districts, which allowed money under the state’s local control funding formula aimed at high-needs students to be used for across-the-board pay hikes for teachers. Meanwhile, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, who had the endorsement of the state teacher’s union, campaigned on a “pause” in the the approval of new charter schools, while the state makes sure that there is no negative impact on traditional schools. The race was still too close to call as of midnight Eastern time Wednesday.


In a state where teacher protests and years of low education funding have been a huge issue, Democratic nominee for state chief Kathy Coffman, a speech therapist, favored expanding access to preschool and full-day kindergarten program, bolstering bilingual education and career and technical education, and offering paid maternity and paternity leave to educators. Former U.S. Rep. Frank Riggs, who once represented a district in California, cited U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ and President Donald Trump’s support for local control on his campaign website. He also backed bolstering access to physical and civics education.The race was still too close to call as of midnight Eastern time Wednesday.

Ballot Initiatives:

An amendment to raise taxes for education funding, Colorado Amendment 73, went down to defeat. It would have created a graduated income tax, increased taxes on those making more than $150,000 and boosted the state’s corporate tax rate by 1.37 percent. The money would have been used for a Quality Education Fund to help increase financing for K-12 education, preschool, and to provide full-day kindergarten.

Voters rejected a ballot initiative to signficantly boost school chioce, Arizona Proposition 305. It would have expanded educational savings accounts, which allow students to use public dollars for a host of services, including private school tuition.

South Carolina Amendment 1: Voters rejected a constitutional amendment that would have required the governor to appoint the state superintendent of education. That means the state’s top education official will continue to be elected by voters.

Daarel Burnette II contributed to this report.

Voters line up to cast their ballots shortly before the polls open in the midterm elections at First Church in Owasso, Okla. --Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.