Early ballot results signal a long night – and possibly week – ahead for the superintendent of public instruction candidates.
As of Wednesday morning, Republican Frank Riggs had maintained a slight lead over Democrat Kathy Hoffman, most recently a former speech therapist in the Peoria school system. Riggs was ahead by less than one percentage point, giving Democrats hopes of capturing the party’s first victory for a statewide office since 2008.
And if the August primary was any indication, it could be days before the winner is declared.
Riggs’ victory over the crowded Republican primary was not made official until a week after the polls closed.
The former California congressman won the nomination by just 359 votes more than the runner up, Bob Branch, according to a final vote count announced on September 4.
Hoffman meanwhile faced off against just one Democratic challenger, David Schapira, and won nearly 22,000 votes ahead.
In many ways, they agreed on some common points.
Both sought greater oversight of charter schools, which are private operations that technically are public schools. Riggs in particular said Arizona should no longer allow these to be for-profit operations.
They also opposed Proposition 305, the measure to ratify the legislative decision to expand who is eligible for vouchers of public funds for private and parochial schools. But Riggs said he could support an expanded program if priority was given to low-income families; Hoffman said there would be less demand for vouchers if the state properly funded its public school system but said she would not eliminate the existing vouchers available to certain students.
Riggs, however, said he opposed a plan – no longer on the ballot – to raise income taxes on the state’s most wealthy to fund education. Hoffman said the state’s schools needed the $690 million that would have raised.
Hoffman also supported the Red for Ed movement and the strike earlier this year by teachers, saying that was necessary to get public attention for the fact that state aid for education has not kept pace with inflation. Riggs said while the movement had admirable goals it quickly became co-opted as a way of supporting Democrats.
Superintendent of public instruction by the numbers
Frank Riggs 50.2 percent
Kathy Hoffman 49.8 percent