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Ritz Supporters Warn Of Backlash At The Polls

Gretchen Frazee

As Republicans move toward a final version of a bill removing one of state school superintendent Glenda Ritz‘s responsibilities, Democrats say the debate could benefit Ritz and other Democrats in next year‘s election.

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath argues Ritz’s upset win over Republican superintendent Tony Bennett was a referendum on GOP education policies pushed by Bennett and then-Governor Mitch Daniels. He warns even many Republican voters are outraged over bills to end Ritz‘s automatic chairmanship of the State Board of Education.

"When I go back home, there's a very active and angry part of the electorate that believes stripping Glenda of what she was elected to do is the biggest outrage you can imagine," says Pelath. "And they're motivated, and they're upset."

State Republican Chairman Tim Berry concedes there could be a backlash, but he says that‘s what campaigns are for. He also points to polls suggesting Hoosiers are happy with how the state is faring.

Governor Pence has made Ritz‘s ouster as state board chairman one of his priorities for the legislative session. He argues it‘s a necessary step to end what he‘s called a dysfunctional relationship between Ritz and the rest of the board.

The House and Senate have already approved first drafts of bills stripping Ritz of the chairmanship. The Senate bill goes further, shrinking the board from 11 members to nine and transferring four of the appointments from Pence to legislative leaders.

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