ARIZONA ELECTION

Race for Arizona public schools boss produces tight primary

Aug 29, 2018, 8:32 AM | Updated: 2:44 pm

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PHOENIX — The primary contest to become Arizona’s next superintendent of public instruction turned into a battle for Republicans and Democrats, with no GOP winner declared by Wednesday morning.

Incumbent Diane Douglas, a Republican, trailed two rivals, Frank Riggs and Bob Branch.

Riggs led with 22.04 percent, just ahead of Branch at 21.78 percent. Douglas had garnered 21.64 percent and political newcomer Tracy Livingston had 19.92 percent.

Jonathan Gelbart rounded out the field with 14.63 percent.

Douglas is no stranger to close runs. She narrowly defeated Democrat David Garcia (now running for governor) in the 2014 general election. She finished with 50.55 percent of the votes to Garcia’s 49.45 percent.

On the Democratic side, Kathy Hoffman beat former state Sen. David Schapira, 53 percent to 47 percent.

Riggs ran for governor in the 2014 primary. That field boasted six declared candidates, none of whom could displace Ducey. Riggs finished last.

In June, a poll of likely GOP voters showed Douglas on top in the race with 14.5 percent. Riggs only had 5.5 percent. But the biggest number was undecideds at 64.5 percent.

Douglas’ leadership has often drawn criticism. Early on she publicly feuded with Gov. Doug Ducey after she fired two State Board of Education staffers. He overturned that move.

During the teachers’ walkout in April, she cautioned participants they could lose their jobs and criticized district leaders who closed campuses.

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Race for Arizona public schools boss produces tight primary