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'You absolutely made a difference' Red for Ed organizer weighs in on midterm elections

Posted at 6:10 PM, Nov 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-07 22:09:32-05

One of the races that are still too close to call in Arizona is that of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Republican candidate Frank Riggs has a slight lead over his Democratic opponent Kathy Hoffman, who is a teacher inspired by the Red for Ed movement.

Organizers of the grassroots movement are also closely watching about five other state house races that have not been called yet, hopeful that the outcome will be more pro-public candidates in both the Arizona state house and senate.

Joe Thomas, the president of the Arizona Education Association, did not return our calls for a comment today, but he did post a heartfelt video on his Facebook page at 3:15 in the morning, addressing teachers and school support staff who had spent countless hours and energy camping out outside the state Capitol, then canvassing for signatures to get the "Invest in Ed" initiative on the November ballot.

He reminded those who were part of the movement that they had seen many victories in this mid-term election.

"First off, Proposition 305 went down in flames. So congrats to every single one of you that worked on that," Thomas said.

Proposition 305 would have expanded the state's school voucher program, that basically gave parents the ability to use public education dollars towards private school. Many teachers felt public school dollars should be spent to improve public schools, instead of being used towards a private education.

One of the biggest losses the Red for Ed movement saw was the loss of David Garcia, the Democratic candidate running for governor who had been endorsed by the Arizona Education Association.

"We were not able, Arizona was not able to overcome $15 million in spending, primarily with commercials for Doug Ducey," Thomas said.

"There's not much more to say about that one. We've got him for four more years. That was a hell of a budget that a lot of outside people spent on him. They wanted to make sure they got him in office," Thomas added.

Political experts disagreed saying funding had nothing to do with the election loss Garcia faced over incumbent Governor Doug Ducey.

"He did so poorly, there has never been a Democrat in Arizona that ran for Governor and did that poorly," said political expert Ernesto Calderon.  

Douglas Cole, another political expert with HighGround public relations, added that Garcia had made some major political blunders in his bid for governor.

"That speech he made in New Orleans where he said, imagine no more wall. That didn't play well. I think the Arizona Education Association made a tactical error by using the grassroots movement, then the Red for Ed movement calls a press conference and endorses Doug Ducey's opponent David Garcia," Cole said, adding that he felt that is where the movement lost some of its impact, by mixing partisan politics in with a need for teacher raises and funding for public education.

Thomas continued his 3:15 a.m. video by asking Red for Ed supporters to focus on the positive gains.

"Now at the federal level, we have five of our Congressional seats that are clearly pro-public education candidates. They can impact our students."

He also asked supporters to be patient as several races were still in limbo, with the vote count continuing at this hour.