Glenda Ritz’s grass-roots support from Indiana teachers and momentum from a series of clashes with Gov. Mike Pence and other Republicans over state education policy wasn’t enough to sustain the Democratic state schools superintendent’s short-lived campaign for governor.
Ritz, the only Democrat elected to statewide office in Indiana after her stunning 2012 defeat of incumbent Tony Bennett, decided to run on the 2016 ticket after a tumultuous “education session” of the Indiana General Assembly.
Ritz has frequently disagreed with her Republican colleagues about the best way to approach education improvements. She has advocated for teacher training over teacher accountability based on test scores, and for traditional public schools over charter schools and the state’s voucher program.
But this year’s disagreements were over her leadership over the Indiana State Board of Education, where meetings sometimes erupted into tense procedural debates and often lasted all day.
Lawmakers passed a bill that would remove the guarantee that the state superintendent chairs the state school board—but not until 2017. Pence proposed the move in late 2014 as a way to eliminate conflict. In exchange, he dissolved an organization he created—the Center for Education and Career Innovation—which Ritz blamed a lot of the conflicts on.
The legislative debates—along with a comment from Senate President David Long about Ritz’s being a librarian and never having run a school system— incensed her supporters. Hundreds filled the Statehouse lobby in a rally in her honor.
But her strong support from teachers wasn’t enough for a winning gubernatorial campaign. She didn’t come close to match the fundraising war chests of Pence or her Democratic opponent, John Gregg.
Ritz dropped out of the governor’s race in early August—two months after announcing her run—saying it wasn’t the right time to mount a winning campaign and that she’d focus on winning re-election as state superintendent. She has since been allied with Gregg.