Diane Douglas Recall Campaign Gains Momentum

A week after David Garcia conceded to Diane Douglas, a campaign to recall the state's new schools chief already is well under way.

The effort is led by Anthony Espinoza, a public school teacher, and Max Goshert, an aquatic safety instructor with the Red Cross. The two had discussed their concerns about Douglas before the election, and they were shocked when she won. So Espinoza started a Facebook page demanding a recall shortly after election night. It had a simple description: "Diane Douglas is not fit to lead as the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Arizona."

See also: David Garcia Finally Concedes to Diane Douglas in Schools Chief Race

"In the macro sense, we as a group believe it's important she be recalled because she really is not qualified to be in this position," Goshert says. "The level of experience she has amounts to her time on the Peoria School Board."

The response to Espinoza's page was immediately overwhelming. He called Goshert last Monday, excited that the page had reached almost 1,000 likes. By the end of that day -- before Garcia had even conceded -- the number of likes doubled.

Now, the page has over 9,000 likes, more than David Garcia's own Facebook page ever tallied. "It was incredible, the momentum," Goshert says.

And because of that momentum, what started as a whim has become a serious endeavor. On Tuesday, Goshert and Espinoza launched a full-fledged website, and they've started working with strategists on developing a plan to collect the hundreds of thousands of signatures they'll need to recall Douglas.

Douglas must be in office for at least six months before a formal recall petition can be filed. Goshert's team hopes to file that as soon as possible, on July 1, 2015. At that point, the team will have 120 days to collect signatures from at least 25 percent of the people who voted in the superintendent race. The team estimates that would total some 350,000 signatures, though they hope to collect closer to 400,000.

By the end of this week, Espinoza and Goshert plan to file with the Secretary of State to become a formal political committee, with Espinoza as chairman and Goshert as treasurer. This will allow them to collect donations and "really start the mobilization," Goshert says.

After that, they plan to enlist several volunteer coordinators who can oversee regional community leaders throughout the state. Those community leaders will each be charged with collecting a set numbers of signatures beginning after the petition is filed in July.

Espinoza and Goshert are hoping to keep their effort nonpartisan. "Many Republican entities recognize that David Garcia is better prepared to be in this position," Goshert says. Garcia was in fact endorsed by political leaders from both sides of the aisle.

The recall effort is opting not to focus on Common Core, which Douglas kept central in her successful campaign. "She ran for superintendent on a single issue -- repealing Common Core -- which she can't even do," Goshert says. "She kind of misled the voters on that. She made it seem like it was in her role that she would be able to repeal this as soon as she got to office." While Douglas will have a seat on the State Board of Education, she would have to persuade at least five other board members to join her in repealing Common Core, a move that seems unlikely.

In a rare interview last week -- Douglas granted a 10-minute interview to ABC 15's Steve Irvin -- she defended herself against claims that she is unqualified, alluding to her work teaching stained glass making as experience in education.

"It just made all of us shake our heads," Goshert says. "If you wanted to find one quote that could sum up this whole election experience and this situation, that's a perfect one. She believes she is qualified to be an educator based off of experience she has teaching people to make stained glass and that that qualifies her to be over the entire education budget and responsible for the education of 1 million kids."

Diane Douglas has not returned multiple requests for comment.

Got a tip? Send it to: Ashley Cusick.

Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX.

Follow Ashley Cusick on Twitter at @AshleyBCusick.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ashley Cusick
Contact: Ashley Cusick