Ybarra re-elected in close superintendent’s race

East Idaho Elects

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BOISE — After a race that had been locked in a dead heat through the early morning hours Wednesday, incumbent Republican schools chief Sherri Ybarra was re-elected to her second term after final numbers came in.

At 9:17 a.m. Wednesday, with 956 of 959 precincts reporting, unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s Office gave Ybarra nearly a 17,000-vote margin of victory over Democratic challenger Cindy Wilson.

Final results showed Ybarra won Bingham, Boundary, Cassia and Jefferson counties and enjoyed big, late leads in Canyon and Kootenai counties. Meanwhile, Wilson won Ada, Bannock, Bonneville, Blaine and Clearwater counties.

(Click here for coverage of Idaho’s gubernatorial race, and other elections with education implications. Click here for the vote numbers and Kevin Richert’s live blog.)

Ybarra is at the end of her first term as state superintendent. She ran a quiet, unconventional re-election campaign. Although she joined a GOP bus tour of the state in the days leading up the election, Ybarra mostly skipped a traditional campaign. The ads and the money broke in favor of Wilson, who traveled the state for months. When she did hit the campaign trail, Ybarra’s first major event was hosted by a former Idaho principal whose teaching certificate was suspended indefinitely by the Professional Standards Commission amid multiple accusations of sexual harassment.

Before she was elected state superintendent, Ybarra served as a teacher, vice principal, principal and federal programs director in the Mountain Home School District.

During their debates, Ybarra told voters that she brought experience to the job. If re-eclected, she would almost immediately propose a school safety plan built around an $18.5 million grant program.

On the other hand, Wilson said that Ybarra was misrepresenting her record on education and said that Idaho students and families deserved a superintendent who would work and engage with the Legislature.

After a 33-year career in education, Wilson retired from teaching following her May primary win to run full time as a Democrat against Ybarra, the incumbent Republican. Wilson grew up in the small eastern Idaho town of Preston. She taught in Pierce, Orofino, Shelley, West Ada and Boise, most recently AP government and politics at Capital High.

Wilson ran on a platform of increasing student achievement, retaining quality educators in the classroom and expanding early childhood learning, focusing first on all-day kindergarten.

Just after 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, Wilson said she was upbeat and positive — and continuing to watch returns with her friends and family.

“I feel very at peace. Calm and comfortable,” Wilson said. “No matter what happens, I feel like we ran a very competitive race.”

Wilson said she was not surprised by how close the race was.

“For me to run against a Republican incumbent in Idaho was kind of crazy,” Wilson said. “The fact that we have done as well as we have is really just so positive and I’m very pleased with what we’ve been able to do.”

This article was originally posted on IdahoEdNews.org on November 6, 2018. It is used here with permission.