Democrat Kathy Hoffman has won the race for Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, according to the Associated Press, beating Republican opponent Frank Riggs in the second major statewide win for an Arizona Democrat this election cycle.
A first-time candidate and speech therapist, 32-year-old Hoffman has pulled off two stunning political upsets, first beating veteran politician David Schapira in the Democratic primary this summer, and then overtaking Riggs, a former California congressman well-versed in charter schools and education policy.
Hoffman declared victory on Sunday evening as returns showed her with a 46,800-vote lead.
Her candidacy was propelled by the grassroots legion of educators who became politically motivated during the #RedForEd teachers' strike this spring.
For a time, her campaign manager was Noah Karvelis, the polarizing young activist and Tolleson music teacher who helped spearhead the Arizona strike and became a target for his left-wing views.
Hoffman will lead the Arizona Department of Education, overseeing the department's programs and bureaucracy. It will be a major test for an educator who has never served in a complex leadership position.
Recently, Hoffman worked for two years as a speech language pathologist at Sahuaro Ranch Elementary School in the Peoria Unified School District, before stepping down to campaign full-time at the end of the last school year. Before that, she worked in the Vail School District near Tucson and earned a master's degree from the University of Arizona.
The campaign between Hoffman and Riggs occasionally grew heated. Hoffman urged voters to reject him in favor of an educator to head up the Department of Education, while Riggs repeatedly criticized Hoffman for her inexperience.
A former police officer, Riggs also attacked Hoffman over her stance that Arizona schools should not increase the number of uniformed school resource officers on campus. Hoffman said that she favored adding counselors instead.
Already known for his short temper online, Riggs suddenly went on an extended Twitter rant on Sunday evening, a couple of hours after Hoffman pulled away in the election returns.
In his tweetstorm, Riggs lashed out at local PR flacks David Leibowitz and Barrett Marson, as well as attorney Thomas Galvin, and journalist Jim Small.
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