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Horne leads large in race for state schools chief

Tom Horne

Tom Horne (photo by Gary Grado)

Former Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne holds a significant lead over Shiry Sapir in a crowded Republican contest for Superintendent of Public Instruction in which Horne is holding 42.54% of votes to 30.15% for Sapir shortly after 10:45 p.m., with many votes left to count.  

Rep. Michelle Udall is trailing by a narrow 2.9%.  

The 2022 primary race was a standoff over differing education priorities for the state’s K-12 schools, including conversations about school choice and promises to eliminate so-called critical race theory.    

Horne, 67, is an attorney and former state schools chief, serving for two terms, before he was elected as the state’s 25th attorney general. He lost a 2014 re-election bid to incumbent Attorney General Mark Brnovich amid allegations of campaign finance violations in the 2014 Republican primary.  

Sapir, 43, a Scottsdale parent, previously worked as a real estate broker, property manager and interior designer. She is a former member of the Israeli military. 

The opposition party caucus Stonewall Democrats of Arizona – known in some states as LGBT Democrats – wrote that Sapir has “no training or experience in education,” on its website. 

Udall, 46, is a part-time math teacher at Mesa Public Schools and the lawmaker representing Mesa, who this year was hesitant to vote for H2853, the nation’s largest school “voucher” expansion. Universal access to empowerment scholarship accounts was a policy issue voters rejected in a 2018 referendum.  

Roughly $493,000 has been spent on the Republican race, most of it to aid Horne. The conversative dark money group American Federation for Children, Inc. and the Arizona Enterprise Club injected $130,000 into the race, opposing Udall.  

Incumbent Kathy Hoffman, a former pre-school teacher and speech-language pathologist, is seeking re-election in an uncontested race on the Democratic ticket. Elect Kathy Hoffman for Superintendent has spent about $115,000 to support her. Hoffman is an educator who led Arizona schools through the Covid pandemic.   

Hoffman was the first Democrat since 1995 to hold this position. She is running with Clean Elections funding.  

Write-in candidate Kara Woods, of rural Wisconsin, and Tiffany Asch challenged the GOP frontrunners. Glendale Elementary School District teacher Jennie Paperman raised nearly $560, then she dropped out of the race.  

Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction leads the public-school system, executing state and federal education laws. The school’s chief is responsible for overseeing the state Department of Education.  

Horne wrote and defended an Arizona law that led to the elimination of the Mexican American studies program in Tucson Unified School District. The Legislature banned the curriculum in 2010, but it was later ruled as intended racial discrimination.   

Horne’s campaign priorities include fighting “critical race theory,” stopping “cancel culture,” and promoting patriotism, according to his website. Thomas Horne for Superintendent of Public Instruction is majority funded by $625,000 in loans from him and his spouse.  

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