After a spring marred by his controversial blog posts and accusations of racism, State Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal lost his bid for reelection in last night's Republican primary.
With almost all of the votes in (only two of Arizona's 1,566 precincts have yet to report their results), Huppenthal's Republican opponent Diane Douglas defeated the incumbent schools chief with over 57 percent of the vote. Huppenthal claimed 41.5 percent.
Huppenthal cites "vociferous opposition" as the reason for his loss but says he does not believe his anonymous blog posts--in which he proposed a ban on Spanish and called welfare recipients "lazy pigs," among other comments--had anything to do with his defeat.
Instead, he says, Common Core was the key issue in this election. "It swamped all these other things," he says.
Huppenthal says he plans to support Douglas in her bid for the seat.
Douglas will face off against Democrat David Garcia in the November 4 general election. Last night, Garcia defeated opponent Sharon Thomas by a margin of six percentage points.
Common Core will indeed likely be central to the race, as Douglas' campaign platform centers on shutting it down in the state. Her website, in answer to the question of why she is running, says, "Quite simply, to stop the Common Core Standards in Arizona."
Douglas says she feels her successful nomination was rooted in this opposition to Common Core. "Our message has resonated with the moms and dads of Arizona," she said last night. "They know the most important thing is their children and their children's education, and we need to make sure that's controlled right here in Arizona. We don't need Washington, we don't need corporations, telling us what to do with our children."
Garcia was quick to go in for the kill on Douglas' singular platform. "My opponent is a single-issue candidate,'" he said in a press release last night. "The differences between us are clear, and I'm confident that voters want a state superintendent with the vision and expertise needed to move Arizona schools forward."
Garcia, an education professor at ASU, supports Common Core as part of the school-improvement equation but wants it to be used in the scheme of a larger school accountability structure that looks at more than just test scores.
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Huppenthal says he will focus on creating a smooth transition for whichever candidate succeeds in November. "I've been working really hard at the Department of Education, and that's what I'm going to do for the next four months," he says.
Last night, Huppenthal said it is too early for him to decide whether he will run for office again in the future.
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