Superintendent race: the rumor mill spins

Tom Luna
State Superintendent Tom Luna

(UPDATED, 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, with fresh comments from Luna.)

It didn’t take long for the speculation to begin.

Shortly after Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna named Idaho Leads Project co-director Roger Quarles as his chief deputy, the rumor mill got going. Is Luna planning to step aside, paving the way for Quarles to run in his place?

Luna quickly denied it, telling the Idaho Statesman’s Bill Roberts that he plans to seek a third term. Quarles told Roberts that he isn’t looking to run for superintendent at this time.

On Wednesday, Luna told Idaho Education News’ Clark Corbin that he will make his plans official in the coming months, but it might not be until early 2014.

“(Reelection was) a bit premature to talk about, but since we announced Roger’s appointment we had some questions that came from the press: ‘Should we take it as signal as to my political plans or Roger’s?’” Luna said. “My answer to that, as I said in the past, is I’d like to run again and I enjoy my job, and that’s still where I am at today.”

Roger Quarles, CIFS, studio portrait
Roger Quarles

Luna’s comments this week aren’t too far out of line with what he told Idaho Education News in April. He said he would decide on his election plans by the end of the year — and said he is more likely to run if Gov. Butch Otter also decides to seek a third term. Otter has said he plans to seek re-election.

Now, let’s turn to state Sen. Branden Durst, D-Boise.

He went public with a guest opinion Tuesday that quickly got a lot of play, picked up by the Idaho Press-Tribune and by two prominent bloggers, Dave Oliveria at the Spokane Spokesman-Review and Dan Popkey at the Idaho Statesman. And Durst says the game is afoot.

He says Luna is already telling Education Department staffers that he will not run again. Durst predicts Luna will take a private sector job — perhaps with Education Networks of America, the recipient of the multiyear WiFi contract awarded last week, or with online education vendor K12. In such a position, says Durst, Luna will continue “to attempt to push the same policies to other unsuspecting GOP-dominated statehouses and Quarles will no doubt run to replace Luna and continue the duping of Idahoans.”

Sen. Branden Durst, D-Boise

Full disclosure time: Idaho Education News is housed under the Idaho Leads Project.

And, by way of full disclosure, Durst also takes a few swipes at Idaho Education News and its staffers, including me.

We do think an elected official’s comments are worth noting, but we are not going to defend ourselves by getting into a laborious back and forth with the good senator. We will instead stand behind our commitment to cover K-12 policy and practice independently and thoroughly. We believe our journalism — which has been and is picked up by newspapers across the state — stands on its merits.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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