Ritz upsets Bennett in Indiana superintendent race

Glenda Ritz

Democrat Glenda Ritz pulled off an upset thanks to some grass-roots campaigning in the race for Indiana superintendent of public instruction.

Ritz had 52 percent of the vote with 85 percent of precincts reporting, compared to incumbent Tony Bennett's 48 percent. Ritz was projected as the winner. It's the first time a Democrat won the seat since 1972.

"We will have an educational agenda, not a political agenda," Ritz promised supporters in her victory speech Tuesday night. 

"With the reorganization of the Department of Education, local public school districts will have the support that they need to address any challenges and address any barriers for students graduating with the opportunities that they deserve when leaving our high schools. Students will experience a well-rounded curriculum taught by highly trained educators.  I am so excited about the students of Indiana," she said.

Many are calling this particular race a referendum on Bennett and his educational reforms over the past few years. Ritz only spent a fraction of what Bennett spent on his campaign.

"I have to thank the tireless work of countless education groups, parents, grandparents, who talked to voters for months about the change we need for our children," Ritz said.

"I'm an educator. I'm not a politician. And they have their work cut out for them when I told them that this would be a campaign about education policy. I also must think the thousands of dedicated volunteers. And last, I have to thank my family," she added.

Ritz, who was practically unknown to the public until recent weeks, was feeling optimistic about her chances earlier Tuesday evening. She has the support of educators and teacher unions across the state.

"I've been told my work begins tomorrow as I prepare my lesson plans for the children of Indiana. Thanks!" Ritz said, smiling.

Ritz told Eyewitness News that teachers are upset with Bennett, and that her campaign worked to gain support through the use of social media websites. Many current teachers and education students on campuses changed their profile pictures to the "Ritz 4 Education" logo and posted about their support for her throughout the Election Day.

Tony Bennett told supporters in his concession speech that he has "no regrets."

"We know when we came here four years ago we were gonna plow some ground. And I told Todd one day that this work was going to be like me being a disposable lighter.  And that is, you've got to light the fire and sometimes you've got to throw the lighter away and that's what happened this evening," he said. "But you know what, I ask our state to never stop putting children first. I challenge our legislators, continue on the path of reform, and I beg this state to continue to spend the 55.6 percent of its state budget with the intent of advancing children first in this state."

See results here.