Superintendent candidates gear up for final weeks to election

Updated Oct. 6 at 10 a.m. with a link to Critchfield’s updated questionnaire. 

With just over five weeks to the general elections, Terry Gilbert and Debbie Critchfield are in the thick of campaign season. The two will face off on Nov. 8, to replace eight-year incumbent Sherri Ybarra as superintendent of public instruction. 

The general elections will take place on Nov. 8.  All seven statewide positions and 105 legislative seats will be on the ballot, though a majority of legislative races are uncontested. EdNews will cover the state superintendent’s and the attorney general’s races most closely because of their implications for education. For more voting information, visit and check back for more EdNews coverage.

Critchfield defeated Ybarra and GOP challenger Branden Durst in the May primary. The former State Board of Education president raised over $300,000 by the election, outraising Durst by nearly a five-to-one margin and Ybarra by more than an eight-to-one ratio.

Critchfield’s campaign zeroes in on funding, workforce readiness, professional support and school choice. She’s been endorsed by Rep. Julie Yamamoto, R-Caldwell, who sits on the House Education Committee, the Idaho Charter School Network and dozens of other local educators.

Gilbert announced his candidacy shortly before the March deadline and ran unopposed in the primary. 

The Democrat nominee wants to increase and maintain public education funding, address school facilities, lend support to educators and increase graduation rates. He’s been endorsed by the Idaho Education Association – the state’s teachers’ union – and a number of former lawmakers.

The two will participate in Idaho Public Television’s debate on Oct. 24.

Here’s what to expect from the candidates in the coming weeks.

Gilbert’s strategy focuses on small-scale, localized outreach

The former teacher and IEA president has invited members of the community to host house parties – events organized with the intent to spread the word about the campaign, solicit donations and make connections with a constituency. He’s attended parties at the homes of former students and coworkers, and has others planned in the coming weeks.

Gilbert has met with Democrats across the state, but says his outreach is not exclusive to a specific party. He wants to continue attending community events, like the county fairs he visited over the summer, to make connections with a diverse group of Idahoans. And he’ll continue meeting with district superintendents and local educators.

Gilbert’s campaign is also ramping up its social media presence to boost outreach.

His daughter, who is also his assistant campaign manager, wrote a fundraising mailer that’s been sent throughout the state. Alongside emails and personal fundraising requests, Gilbert says the campaign has received a “healthy” financial response.

His fundraising has been modest compared to his opponent’s. The democrat has raised $56,861 and spent $11,165, as of Sept. 29, the secretary of state’s office reports. He’s received financial backing from former Boise school board trustee and gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff, and the state’s teachers union. 

On Election Day, Gilbert says there’s one sure event planned.

“No matter the outcome, we will have a celebration,” he said.

Critchfield reorients her approach for a broader audience

Critchfield plans to continue traveling the state to meet Idahoans where they are and listen to their input.

Since the primary, Critchfield has met with county commissioners, student body leaders, school board members and more. She’s also attended education summits and GOP events, and spoken on education policy panels.

She’ll participate in the Republican Party tour, central committee events and has accepted invitations to speak around the state. She’ll continue using social media to reach a broader audience.

Critchfield also wants to continue visiting schools and meeting with elected officials.

And the Republican nominee isn’t backing down from her aggressive fundraising strategy.

So far, she’s racked up $431,782 and spent $326,328 as of Sept. 29, with backing from current and former lawmakers, charter school organizations and school board trustees, the secretary of state’s office reports show

In the end, the GOP candidate says she’s planning for a “strong finish.”

EdNews asked both candidates to fill out our questionnaire.

To read Critchfield’s answers, click here. For Gilbert’s, click here.


Sadie Dittenber

Sadie Dittenber

Reporter Sadie Dittenber focuses on K-12 policy and politics. She is a College of Idaho graduate, born and raised in the Treasure Valley. You can follow Sadie on Twitter @sadiedittenber and send her news tips at [email protected].

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