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Wednesday, Sep 17, 2014
National Politics

Arizona education official loses re-election bid

Published:   |   Updated: August 27, 2014 at 05:09 AM

PHOENIX (AP) Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal lost his bid for a second term Tuesday, falling in the Republican primary after he admitted making offensive anonymous comments on the Internet while serving as the state's chief education official.

Diane Douglas won the race after focusing almost all of her campaign on repealing the Obama administration-supported Common Core education standards.

Huppenthal downplayed the role his anonymous blog posts played in the race, attributing the loss to the Common Core issue.

"We feel fine," he said. "We understand that the Common Core issue was a raging forest fire."

In the November election, Douglas will face David Garcia, an Arizona State University professor who defeated high school English teacher Sharon Thomas in the Democratic primary.

The GOP contest normally would have received little attention but was transformed when it was revealed that Huppenthal made anonymous rants on the Internet.

He called welfare recipients "lazy pigs" who mooch off the government despite having flat-screen TVs in their living rooms, while comparing the Planned Parenthood founder to Nazis. He bashed Spanish-language media and said, "This is America, speak English."

Huppenthal broke down in tears at a June news conference as he apologized for his actions and said that anonymous discourse has long been a cornerstone of Democracy, citing examples of Founding Fathers who wrote under pseudoynms during the 18th century.

The race focused heavily on Common Core. Douglas fiercely opposes the program, calling it "top-down government control of our education system."

Huppenthal has been forced into an awkward position on the issue. He has long backed Common Core, but said during a debate with Douglas that he "never supported the standards."

The standards have been adopted by most states and were approved by the state Board of Education with little opposition in 2010. But they have become a popular talking point in Republican primaries around the nation as GOP candidates court voters on the right.

Douglas said she would represent Arizona residents, and not Washington D.C. or corporations.

"It's going to take the same as we did in the primary: Appeal to the moms and dads of Arizona," Douglas said in an interview after she was declared the winner. "They want control back over their children's education."

Garcia called Douglas a single issue candidate without the necessary background in education for the post. He said he would work to get more funding and support for teachers.

"We need to get away from standardized testing and measure what matters," Garcia said.

The superintendent has a large role in determining state education policy along with the governor, the Legislature and the state Board of Education. The superintendent is a Board of Education member and oversees the state Department of Education, an agency whose main job is to funnel funding to school districts and charter schools.

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