PHOENIX – Incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman and Republican challenger Tom Horne, who’s seeking to reclaim the job he once held, were running neck and neck Wednesday in unofficial results from the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.
“To be clear, my budget was one-third of my opponents. But my passion for this work is unmatched, and as more votes get tabulated, I hope that we will have the chance once again to show Arizona this position cannot be bought by corrupt politicians,” said Hoffman in a statement.
Hoffman and Horne’s campaigns showed a wide divide on a multitude of issues.
As Hoffman defended her record and focused her campaign on issues of educator recruitment and retention, Horne called for a return to academic fundamentals to raise test scores.
During her time in office, Hoffman focused on retaining teachers and advocated for student mental wellness by investing in programs to support mental health resources for students.
Horne, who served two terms as superintendent before becoming Arizona’s attorney general, hammered away with Republican themes that have been effective elsewhere around the country. He blasted any teaching of critical race theory in schools – Hoffman dismissed the issue as meaningless because it isn’t being taught in Arizona anyway – and any race-based lessons based on The New York Times’ 1619 Project.
Hoffman had previously been a preschool teacher and speech pathologist.
She showed support for Arizona’s LGBTQ students, including a push for the use of Q Chat, an online space for LGBTQ students to safely talk about issues with others their age, in schools. Horne opposed the idea.
Horne says on his campaign website that Q Chat “encourages children to chat with unlicensed adults about hypersexual topics.”
Hoffman said public education needs to be fully inclusive.
“If we want our state moving forward, let’s be supporting public education, including making our schools safe and inclusive for all kids, including our LGBTQ youth,” Hoffman said.
As superintendent from 2003 to 2011, Horne fought to remove ethnic studies from schools, led changes in school testing for English proficiency, which critics said would violate the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and he advocated for the expansion of kindergarten from a half-day program to a voluntary full-day program.
Seeking to reclaim the position, Hoffman’s main priorities included replacing bilingual educational services with English-immersion programs and requiring high school students to take a standardized test to graduate.
Unlike Hoffman, who wants more counselors and social workers on campuses, Horne wants to increase police presence in schools.
“Saying you’re a gun-free school says, ‘I’m a victim. Come get me,’” he said.