Catherine Truitt’s victory over Jen Mangrum for State Superintendent of Public Instruction was certainly one of the most significant and surprising Republican victories on Tuesday evening. Results from the North Carolina State Board of Elections show Truitt beat Mangrum by about 148,000 votes out of 5.3 million votes cast. In percentage terms, Truitt garnered 51.40 % of the vote, Mangrum, 48.60 %.
Truitt’s win should be considered significant for a number of reasons. This is only the third time since 1877 that a Republican has been elected to the office and the first time since 1871 that Republicans have been elected consecutively. But there are other reasons to be happy about this outcomes. The Civitas Poll had showed the race a dead tie in both August and September. The latest poll had Truitt down three points in late October, but a victory was still possible and within the poll’s margin of error (+/- 4.37%). We shouldn’t forget the race was targeted by Democrats and education organizations like the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), the largest teacher union in the state, to help regain influence over state government and education policymaking.
Lastly it looks like Mangrum raised more money than Truitt as well. Although the latest figures from Ballotpedia only include up to October 17th, Mangrum raised $281,000 to $137,000 for Truitt; a ratio of more than 2 to 1.
So how did Truitt win? Besides having a message that seemed to resonate more with voters, Truitt won by getting voters to the polls. While Mangrum enjoyed a massive advantage in Absentee By-Mail voting (664K/341K), Truitt countered with a slight advantage in Absentee One-Stop (1,623K/1,816K) and a huge advantage in Election Day voting (568K/291K). Significant Republican turnout on election day propelled Truitt to victory.
What does a Truitt victory mean? Truitt’s election means the Department of Public Instruction will continue to be led by a reform minded individual who believes the education system is broken, that merely adding more funding isn’t a solution. Truitt’s outlook is likely to find her friends among Republican legislators who direct policymaking and write education legislation. I expect Truitt to focus on getting quality teachers in every classroom, revamping school accountability and testing, and beginning a renewed and much-needed focus on literacy and reading proficiency.
Conservatives should also be happy that unlike her opponent and the current governor, Catherine Truitt supports school choice. She believes parents should have options to provide their children with a good education. Truitt supports charter schools and home schools. and she has reiterated her support for the Opportunity Scholarship Program because the program gives more choices to low-income families.
Congratulations, Catherine Truitt on your victory. We wish you success in the months ahead and we look forward to working with you!