The race for Wyoming’s schools chief was expected to be a close one, but it wasn't. Republican Jillian Balow defeated Democrat Mike Ceballos in the race for State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tuesday night with more than 60 percent of the vote.
Despite his party affiliation, Ceballos earned credibility in deep-red Wyoming with his business leadership experience. He racked up a string of key endorsements, and outspent Balow during the campaign, but Ceballos says he didn’t make his case to enough people.
“If you’re going to be a candidate that can win and you’re going to be a Democrat, then you have to make sure that you can meet those folks,” said Ceballos. “And I really had great conversation, I always felt supported, but again, that means you have to have 100,000 conversations, and I wasn’t able to do that.”
Ceballos and Balow differed in their position on the Common Core State Standards, a big issue for many voters. A recent University of Wyoming poll shows 63 percent of Wyomingites oppose Common Core. Ceballos supported it, while Balow opposed it.
Balow says, as Superintendent, she’ll work to find the best way forward for the controversial standards adopted by the state in 2012.
“One of the reasons, frankly, I got into this race to begin with—was really to build consensus and build agreement about standards—Wyoming standards—before we take ownership of them,” said Balow. “And what I’ve pledged to do from day one is work with people and open up that discussion process.”
The election follows years of turmoil in Wyoming’s Education Department under Superintendent Cindy Hill. Balow says her experience as a classroom teacher and administrator at both Wyoming’s Departments of Education and Family Services position her well to fix Wyoming’s troubled K-12 education system.
“We really need to heal a fractured education system in Wyoming—at the state level at least—and make sure that we have the capacity to provide support to Wyoming school districts,” Balow said.