- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 28, 2014

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - A political group representing Wyoming teachers has withdrawn its endorsement of Republican candidate Jillian Balow for state superintendent of public instruction following her campaign’s attack on Democratic candidate Mike Ceballos.

The Wyoming Education Association’s Political Action Committee announced Monday that it had pulled support for Balow, the Casper Star-Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/ZYfhVI).

Kathy Vetter is president of the 6,000-member WEA and chairwoman of the PAC. She said the PAC endorses Ceballos.

Vetter said WEA members have said in recent weeks that they were unhappy with the rhetoric in Balow’s fundraising letter about unions and organized labor.

In the Sept. 3 letter, Balow wrote about Ceballos: “He will be heavily funded by the unions and the Washington D.C. establishment who want to get a toe hold in a reliably red Wyoming by electing a Democrat to a statewide office.”

“That was a real big red flag that they all mentioned,” Vetter said.

“The style and leadership portrayed by the candidates during their campaigns has swayed the WEA-PACE to single out Mike as the clear choice for this position,” Vetter said.

Balow released a statement Monday calling the decision impulsive. She noted it was made with just a week left until the Nov. 4 election, based on a six-week-old fundraising letter.

Balow stated she doesn’t believe the board’s decision reflects teachers who are WEA members. If elected, she said she will work in partnership with the WEA. “They are an important voice for teachers across Wyoming,” she said.

Balow also used her statement to criticize a Friday press conference where former Democratic Govs. Mike Sullivan and Dave Freudenthal endorsed Ceballos.

“My opponent and his supporters, as evidenced by Gov. Freudenthal’s comments last week, have tried everything to make this race a referendum on the outgoing state superintendent instead of a race between me and my opponent,” Balow said. “The WEA board’s actions are further proof of this effort of distraction.”

Outgoing Supt. Cindy Hill has clashed with Gov. Matt Mead and state lawmakers. She won a ruling early this year from the Wyoming Supreme Court that reinstated the authority of her office to oversee the Wyoming Department of Education following legislative action that had stripped it away.

Ceballos, former president of Qwest Wyoming, said he is thrilled by the endorsement. He said believes his campaigning style of not attacking Balow personally has made the difference.

Ceballos has spoken about the need for Wyoming to break from the style of Hill. But he said his campaign’s central theme has been his leadership experience. He was president of Qwest for 14 years and has served on education committees.

Ceballos has said the only people he knows in Washington are Wyoming’s all-Republican congressional delegation.

The WEA’s umbrella organization, the National Education Association, is a union and all WEA members are NEA members. But WEA does not meet the technical requirements to be considered a union, Vetter said.

Also on Monday, members of the state’s congressional delegation - U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso and U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, all Republicans - issued a statement explaining why they endorse Balow.

“With so many changes happening nationally in education, we need a leader in our Office of Public Instruction who has real classroom experience,” Barrasso said. “I know that Jillian will make the tough decisions required for our children to compete and achieve their dreams.”


Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, https://www.trib.com

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