Notes on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Election

Annysa Johnson:

Evers, 65, said his large margin Tuesday reflected Wisconsin voters’ commitment to public education. But he could face a tough fight ahead, he said, if Holtz attracts funding from school reform proponents across the country.

“They both vowed to go after national voucher money, and I assume that will be Mr. Holtz’s M.O.,” Evers said of his challengers. “If that happens…we will work as hard as we can to raise money and get people out to vote the next time around.”

Holtz, 59, was not available for comment, according to his spokesman, because he was celebrating with friends and family. The candidate issued a statement saying he would present “an alternative vision for the future of Wisconsin’s students to that of Dr. Tony Evers.”

Humphries congratulated both candidates in a statement and urged voters to learn more about Holtz’s proposals and to ask Evers what he plans to do differently.

“I remain convinced that Wisconsin students can achieve so much more with the right leadership at DPI.”

So far, Evers has a significant edge financially. As of Feb. 14, he had raised more than $245,000 over the past 13 months, compared to Holtz’s $54,280. But Holtz is expected to pick up many of Humphries’ conservative supporters and could attract outside funding from education reform advocates who see a chance to bring Wisconsin in line with the views of new U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has been critical of Common Core and supports the expansion of taxpayer funded vouchers.

Higher-than-expected turnouts in Madison and Dane County at large — as much as 18% to 22%, according to early estimates — likely helped Evers. Madison and Dane County clerks could not say whether the DPI race brought voters to the polls.

Molly Beck:

The state superintendent race pits two former school district superintendents and longtime educators against each other — a proponent of expanding school choices and an opponent of the state expansion of taxpayer-funded school vouchers.

On the April 4 ballot will be two-term incumbent Tony Evers, a public school advocate backed mostly by liberals and teachers unions who has been at odds with Republicans for years over his adoption of the Common Core State Standards and his opposition to the expansion of private school vouchers in the state.

He took about seven of every 10 votes in the primary.

His challenger, Lowell Holtz, is backed mostly by conservatives and school voucher supporters. He is making his second run for the position and opposes the Common Core State Standards and favors expansion of educational options — including taxpayer-funded vouchers — other than public schools.

Holtz got 23 percent of the vote Tuesday, and was dogged by allegations that he sought to get out of the race in exchange for a guaranteed, taxpayer-funded $150,000 job that would let him oversee the state’s largest school districts, including Madison.

Evers is seeking a third term in the wake of massive membership losses for the state’s largest teachers union, a strong campaign contributor for Evers in the past, setting the stage for the potential of third-party groups spending on behalf of Holtz to ensure the election of a voucher supporter.

Dane County results.