Maginnis: Reform candidates sweep BESE runoffs
Supporters of sweeping changes in K-12 education won more than they thought was possible two months ago, after candidates they backed convincingly won all three BESE runoffs. Incumbent Chas Roemer, challenger Kira Orange Jones and education newcomer Carolyn Hill all received more than 55% of votes. Along with three members elected in the primary and three appointed by the governor, supporters of Gov. Jindal's agenda now hold nine of 11 BESE seats. In addition, member Walter Lee, who was unopposed, has signaled his willingness to back the governor's choice for a new superintendent, John White, the current head of the Recovery School District. The winners were all backed by the Alliance for Better Classrooms, the PAC formed by businessman Lane Grigsby, which spent close to $1 million on mailers and TV ads in this election cycle. The GOP Victory Fund, formed by the governor, also spent $1 million in the BESE primaries and runoffs, including $400,000 for Roemer alone. The election results are a major blow to the Coalition for Public Education, comprised of organizations for teachers, superintendents and school board members, which opposed the rapid expansion of charter schools and the Jindal-backed policy of linking teacher evaluations to student test scores. At the time of qualifying, both Orange Jones and Hill were considered decided long shots in their respective minority districts. Orange Jones got an early push from New Orleans education reformer Leslie Jacobs, while Hill, without outside support, led a primary field of four in the Baton Rouge-based district before ABC got behind her.
—The only incumbent House Democrat to lose was Rep. Rickey Hardy, D-Lafayette, which, to alums of Southern University, was as sweet as a rare football win for the Jaguars this season. Vincent Pierre won, 53-47%, with help from Southern backers statewide, who were angered that Hardy was the only Black Caucus member to support the failed bill to merge UNO and SUNO.
(John Maginnis publishes LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com. With the elections over, LaPolitics Weekly will take off Thanksgiving week and return on Dec. 2.)
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