In a stunning turn, GOP state superintendent Tony Bennett conceded Tuesday’s election to his Democratic challenger Glenda Ritz, standing firm in his support of policies that significantly altered Indiana’s education landscape during his term.
“It’s been a great honor to serve you. It’s been a great honor to serve your children,” he said in his speech to Indiana Republicans gathered in the north endzone of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
After conceding, he spoke to reporters:
On teachers unions’ influence on the race:
I still believe we were right on the issues. I still believe in giving parents choices on their childrens’ education. I still believe in passing legislation that demands we have effective teachers in classrooms and holding everyone accountable are the right policies. We knew when we came here we were going to make decisions that were going to upset the status quo…
There was a very effective ground game. There’s no question about that. We should never underscore that. But hey, I’m not here to vilify them — that’s their job. They had a candidate, they worked their tails off to get their candidate elected. More power to them. But tonight does not erase the last four years for Indiana children. Tonight doesn’t do that. I believe that when we look back on education history, this is going to be a very kind four years for Indiana education.
On the idea of the race as a “referendum” on a national push for education overhaul:
I don’t think it’s a message on reform. I believe it was a referendum on Tony Bennett. I believe this was an issue where it was more about not electing Tony Bennett. Again, no one can convince me that these aren’t the right policies, and we can argue about that all night long.
At Democratic headquarters, Ritz says Bennett called her to concede the race. She said he told her she ran a strong campaign and promised a smooth transition.
More to come.