Glenda Ritz announced today that her run for Indiana governor is over.
When Ritz boldly announced a run for governor on June 4, she said only by unseating Gov. Mike Pence could she give schools the support they need.
A little more than two months later, a humbled Ritz closed down her mistake-prone and financially wobbly campaign, saying she would instead focus on education and support services for kids by seeking re-election to her current job.
She remained critical of Pence even while bowing out.
“Now is not the right time for me to run for governor,” Ritz said in a statement. “The people of Indiana know we need a new governor, a governor that supports public education that directly affects their abilities for better jobs and stronger communities. As superintendent, I will continue to advocate for what is right to educate our children to improve our economy for all Hoosiers.”
In two months as a candidate, Ritz showed none of the political shrewdness and innovation that propelled her to a stunning victory over then-state Superintendent Tony Bennett in 2012.
Ritz attracted a wide following of educators and small donors, along with union dollars, against Bennett, generating strong enthusiasm through smart social media and word-of-mouth strategies.
But this time her events were less energetic and her campaign was less focused.
Last month, Ritz admitted mistakes and promised to re-file campaign finance reports that appeared to show her campaign violated state law by accepting contributions during the legislative session when lawmakers were crafting the budget, which is illegal.
Reporters sometimes ran into disconnected phone lines or an old voicemail greeting trying to reach the campaign, which never hired a permanent spokesman.
Still, an optimistic Ritz told the Indianapolis Star just last week her campaign was just getting organized. She envisioned strong fundraising ahead and a quality campaign.
While Ritz stayed close in early polling, she trailed far behind Pence and Democratic front runner John Gregg when it came to raising money. Ritz reported raising just over $30,500 so far this year in July, while Gregg had raised $1.76 million and Pence $1.63 million.
Given those troubles, some were not surprised Ritz pulled out.
“I think it was probably a good decision,” said David Dresslar, a former superintendent and director of a University of Indianapolis education leadership center who is now working as a consultant. “I think the reality of fundraising and getting an early start and the war chest John Gregg has developed has really given her an uphill climb.”
The failed campaign could potentially help Ritz by allowing her to focus on her re-election campaign. She is likely to be a formidable candidate to keep her job despite sometimes bitter Republican opposition.
But such a quick exit also diminishes some of the arguments Ritz has made for why Hoosiers should trust her more on education policy than Pence.
For instance, her supporters were fond of pointing out Ritz got more votes defeating Bennett in 2012 than Pence did in his victory over Gregg, suggesting she was more popular than Pence.
Ritz also regularly suggested her disputes with members of the Indiana State Board of Education were really battles between her and Pence. But far from setting the stage for a head-to-head run against Pence in 2016, her campaign turned out to be an early washout.
Dresslar said he doesn’t think Ritz’s ill-fated try for governor will be bad for her or diminish the stature of education issues in 2016.
“I don’t think that this exploration necessarily hurts her,” he said. “I don’t think anyone can fault her for considering this. Education will continue to be a hot-button issue.”
Ritz and Pence became bitter rivals within months of taking office. Pence launched the Center for Education and Career Innovation to support the appointed state board members, and Ritz was deeply critical of it, saying the center undermined her work.
Earlier this year, Pence dissolved CECI but at the same time pushed for a bill to remove the guarantee in state law that Ritz chair the state board. The bill passed, but the change doesn’t go into effect until after the 2016 election.
Teresa Meredith, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, said she still supports Ritz and was not disillusioned by her decision. The union was the largest contributor to her 2012 campaign.
“I would like to know a little bit more about the decision, but I think I know her well enough to know that she’s probably considered what the outcome could be in both the governor’s race and the superintendent’s race,” Meredith said. “I’m wondering what’s going on with (the superintendent’s) race in particular, if that’s had anything to do with her deciding to withdraw or if she’s just wanting to stay focused on what she’s doing.”
Perhaps it’s a case of unfinished business, Meredith said. There are policies in the works, especially around teacher training and pay, that are just getting off the ground, she said.
Either way, Meredith was confident ISTA teachers would stand behind her.
“Our members love her because she is a champion for the children they serve,” she said. “If this is what she thinks she needs to do to make sure they are served well, then they will support that.”
The fact that Ritz is an educator with a long track record of supporting teachers is why teachers like Carlota Holder, who works with students learning English as a new language at Creston Middle School in Warren Township, believe in her, Holder said.
“I trust her,” Holder said. “She was a teacher. She knows what she’s talking about. Where (Pence has) made these poor choices, and we’re now seeing the effects. If he gets re-elected, I don’t know if there’s really any hope for teachers.”
Holder said she was surprised when she heard from her husband after she left work today that the Ritz campaign for governor was shutting down. She’s disappointed Ritz dropped out.
Ritz could have done more to help kids as governor, Holder said, especially when it came to issues like expanding state support of preschool and fighting poverty, than she can as state superintendent.
“I wholeheartedly believe that because she got it the last time that if she ran again (for state superintendent), she’d win,” Holder said “But then I just wonder, are we going to deal with the same drama that we’ve dealt with already this year? I don’t think any of us want that.”
Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz announced today she is no longer running for governor, saying she needed to focus instead on her work in education.
The announcement was first reported by WTHR. Ritz will seek re-election as state superintendent, according to a statement by the Indiana Democratic Party.
She recently came under fire after allegations surfaced that she accepted money from donors during this year’s legislative session, a violation of campaign finance law because it was a budget year.
Read Ritz’s statement here:
Over a million schoolchildren are starting school. They begin this school year with the hope and optimism that education can make a difference in their lives. The best use of my time and talents will be to serve our children, their families and the taxpayers of Indiana as superintendent of public instruction. I must continue to be 110 percent engaged in supporting public education. Now is not the right time for me to run for governor. Under my leadership I have brought the discussion of public education into the public discourse and have started to fundamentally change how we support schools. My work is not finished, and my passion is stronger than ever. I am resolutely dedicated to educators students and families from pre-K to graduation. Recent stories in the news media have pointed out that we do indeed have major issues that impact our families. Two of them particularly concern me — the rising childhood poverty rate and a major decrease in the numbers of college-level students pursuing majors that will lead to teaching. Both of these issues require a re-doubling of my commitment to serve as superintendent and to provide the needed wraparound services to our children and to address the barriers that have been put in place to attract and retain teachers. The people of Indiana know we need a new governor, a governor that supports public education that directly affects their abilities for better jobs and stronger communities. As superintendent, I will continue to advocate for what is right to educate our children to improve our economy for all Hoosiers. With the help of all of you, we will keep education the focal point of the gubernatorial race. Many of my supporters will be disappointed with my decision, but I know that we share a vision for education. My heartfelt thanks goes out to those who have so passionately supported my campaign for governor. With my personal commitment to doing what is needed to prepare this and future generations for the challenges of tomorrow, I will enthusiastically seek re-election as your superintendent of public instruction.