McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

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June 24, 2014

Supporters hail Hofmeister as she trounces incumbent Barresi

OKLAHOMA CITY — Loud applause and a cry of “We did it! We did it!” filled a room in northwest Oklahoma City as supporters of Tulsa businesswoman Joy Hofmeister learned she’d taken the Republican Party’s nomination for state superintendent of public instruction.

Hofmeister’s more than 55 percent of the statewide vote yesterday gave her a clean victory in a three-way race, with no need for a run-off, and represented a crushing defeat of incumbent Superintendent Janet Barresi.

Meanwhile, across town, the mood was much more subdued as a couple dozen of Barresi’s supporters gathered at a party that was supposed to be a victory celebration — or at least a toast to her scraping by to advance to a head-to-head runoff against Hofmeister.

In the end, Barresi, a former dentist, trailed even relatively unknown candidate Brian Kelly, an Edmond educator, for most of the night.

“We have a toxic environment, and I think we had a referendum on that tonight. And that referendum says parents need to be encouraged to be engaged, not shut out of the process,” Hofmeister told supporters at the Oklahoma City rally. Her campaign held another rally in Tulsa.

According to supporters, Hofmeister’s victory was fueled by widespread antipathy for both Barresi and the Common Core standards. The Legislature voted to repeal Oklahoma’s endorsement of the national education standards, and Gov. Mary Fallin signed the repeal bill into law earlier this month.

“Doggone it, we worked hard and we’re going to get rid of that old hag. Barresi knows she’s getting her hat handed to her,” said Karen Yates, a Tea Party member from Oklahoma City.

Barresi pumped more than $1 million dollars of her money into her campaign and outspent Hofmeister. In the meantime, Hofmeister bested the incumbent in fundraising, garnering much of her support from educators throughout the state.

Yates, a credit union employee, said Barresi had a lot of Tea Party support in her first election in 2010 but failed to keep her promises. So support, and hopes for the end of the Common Core, shifted to Hofmeister.

“Joy was by far the best of them,” said Kevin McLaughlin, a network engineer from Oklahoma City. “She’s an obviously better alternative.”

McLaughlin said he hopes Hofmeister’s resounding victory sends a message to those who run for office in “bad faith,” adding that Barresi made “substantial promises” that she didn’t keep.

He said Barresi had promised to keep Common Core out of schools but then implemented them anyway.

Adena Bolte, a fifth-grade teacher at Mannford Public Schools, said she’s opposed to almost everything Barresi stands for.

But she also personally knows Hofmeister through her work with Kumon Learning Centers.

“I saw her dedication for kids. It’s not phony. It’s absolutely genuine,” Bolte said. “I believe that Joy’s in it for the right reason and will work with us as educators.”

Janelle Stecklein is the Oklahoma reporter and chief for the CNHI Capitol bureau. Contact Stecklein at jstecklein@cnhi.com.

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