Former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, the runner-up in this year's Republican primary for governor, announced his support of Democrat David Garcia for the state's schools superintendent.
"David Garcia isn't only the most qualified candidate -- he's the only qualified candidate, and that's why I'm supporting him," Smith said at a press conference today, joining several other Republicans in endorsing Garcia.
Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Policy Chair Bettina Nava and a couple of Republican businessmen, John Graham and Scott Rehorn, were also in attendance to announce their support of Garcia.
Garcia also earned the support of former Arizona Republican Senator Rich Crandall, who also served as Wyoming's education chief, although Crandall wasn't present today.
"Really, for me, the choice came to one item, and that was qualifications," said Nava, whose organization gave Garcia its first-ever political endorsement. "It's just crystal clear who we need to be supporting in this race."
Garcia's held several positions in the education world, including as an associate superintendent in Arizona, the director of research and policy for the Arizona Department of Education, a research analyst for the Arizona State Senate Education Committee, a peer consultant for the U.S. Department of Education, and currently works as an associate professor at ASU's teachers' college.
Former Mayor Smith, whose father served as the superintendent of the Mesa public school system, said Douglas' candidacy "embarrasses" him as a Republican, and described her as a one-issue candidate only concerned about Common Core standards. He added that Douglas simply "can't" discuss the issues with Garcia, whom he called "extremely qualified" for the position.
Garcia probably has the best shot of any Democrat to win a statewide office in next month's election. In 2010, Republicans swept Arizona's statewide offices, including governor, secretary of state, attorney general, superintendent, treasurer, both corporation commission seats, and even state mine inspector.
But the current state schools superintendent, John Huppenthal, came under fire earlier this year when he was revealed as an anonymous blog commenter who posted various extreme or insensitive comments online. He broke down in tears and publicly apologized, but that didn't help his re-election bid -- he was defeated in the primary by Republican newcomer Diane Douglas.
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The Republican establishment in the state hasn't exactly rallied around Douglas, who's been labeled as a one-issue candidate for her consistent opposition to Common Core standards. She's also been unwilling to debate Garcia -- unless it's one of the mandated Clean Elections debates -- and her website doesn't even describe her views on education issues. (Her website says, "We have launched a new website and we will be posting new information soon to this section. Check back soon!")
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