Wyoming K-12 Chief Hill Fails to Topple Incumbent Governor in GOP Primary

By Andrew Ujifusa — August 20, 2014 1 min read
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Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill fell short this week in her Republican primary bid to unseat Gov. Matt Mead, who last year approved a law that stripped her of much of her authority over public schools and touched off a bitter legal and legislative fight over Hill’s position.

Meanwhile, in the Aug. 19 Republican primary for Hill’s position in the GOP-dominated state, an administrator with the state’s Department of Family Services, Jillian Balow, beat out a field that included Sheryl Lain, who worked at the state education department during Hill’s tenure and was considered Hill’s ally. Balow will face Democrat Mike Ceballos in the Nov. 4 general election.

Hill, who had the backing of tea party supporters, garnered only 13 percent of the vote, far short of Mead’s 55 percent. She announced that she would campaign for governor more than 18 months ago, just a few days after Mead signed the legislation transferring virtually all of her K-12 power to a new position, the state director of education. That job eventually was filled by former Arizona state Sen. Richard Crandall, who was picked by Mead.

Hill sued to get her job back, saying the law was unconstitutional and motivated by lawmakers’ dislike of her and her approach to the work. (The position of Wyoming state superintendent is outlined in the state constitution.) She eventually won that court battle, forcing Crandall to step down from his postion. But in the meantime, lawmakers investigated her activities while she was superintendent. In a select committee report, those legislators accused her of neglecting her responsibilities and deliberately ignoring both state and federal laws.

Hill’s defeat marks the second time a sitting state superintendent has challenged an incumbent governor in a state GOP primary in 2014. Georgia Superintendent John Barge challenged Gov. Nathan Deal earlier in the year, and he also lost his primary election by a large margin.

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