Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

November 15, 2012

Ritz backers reach reluctant Republicans

Hundreds of emails urge GOP to ‘honor’ election results.

Indianapolis — Some of the same forces that used social media to defeat the Republican state schools superintendent are mobilizing their resources again, this time to send a message to GOP leaders to pay attention to the election results.

They’re flooding the email inboxes of some key legislators and policymakers with an online petition that asks them to “honor” the 1.3 million votes cast for Democrat Glenda Ritz in her upset win over GOP incumbent Tony Bennett.

The online petition drive was launched over the Veterans Day weekend by some pro-Ritz grassroots organizations, including a group called Republicans for Ritz.

It came in response to public statements made by Gov.-elect Mike Pence and GOP legislative leaders, who downplayed the significance of Ritz’s election and claimed their own victories as mandates for continuing with the sweeping education reforms championed by Bennett and locked into law by a GOP-controlled Legislature.

By mid-Tuesday, more than 3,000 people had signed the online petition, triggering a flood of emails into the inboxes of legislators who sit on the General Assembly’s education committees and those belonging to the members of the policymaking State Board of Education.

Cathy Fuentes-Rohrer, a Bloomington mother of four school-age children and Ritz supporter, helped launch the petition drive through the influential social media site, change.org.

She did so, she said, because she was “astounded” by the comments made by Republican leaders last week. The day after the election, Pence said Indiana voters delivered a “strong affirmation of the progress on education reform in this state” by keeping GOP legislative majorities.

“I thought, ‘You’re trying to take away our voice when we just raised it,’” said Fuentes-Rohrer. “It was clear to us we had to keep the momentum going.”

The online petition, which can be found on several sites, including that of the Northeast Friends of Public Education at neifpe.blogspot.com, starts by reminding voters that Ritz won more votes than Pence did. It goes on to say that voters rejected the “top-down, corporate reform model imposed by the state.”

Fuentes-Rohrer is a self-professed liberal Democrat who chairs the Indiana Coalition for Public Education of Monroe County and south central Indiana, an organization that used its strong Facebook presence to connect with other like-minded grassroots organizations across the state.

They helped generate an

anti-Bennett message that resonated with voters like Sharon Kain, president of the Cass County Republican Women’s organization, a self-described conservative and ardent supporter of Mitt Romney and Richard Mourdock, the GOP’s losing presidential and Senate candidates.

“I did everything I could to defeat Tony Bennett,” Kain said.

Kain’s reasoning: She has a daughter who is a teacher and a husband who is a school superintendent.

“Both have been extremely unhappy with the way education reforms have been handled,” she said.

Ritz is a schoolteacher, a political newcomer and a former Republican who switched parties to take on Bennett. She billed her campaign as a referendum on sweeping education-reform legislation implemented by Bennett, including vouchers for private schools, merit pay for teachers and more high-stakes testing for students.

With a campaign budget less than one-fifth of what Bennett raised, she and her campaign staff tapped into the sentiments of unhappy teachers and school administrators across the state and made the most of social media.

State Sen. Jean Leising, a Republican from Oldenburg who backed the major education-reform legislation, had 1,500 online petitions in her inbox when she opened her email Tuesday morning.

That caught her attention, as did Ritz’s win. She’s not ready to jettison the reform legislation, she said, but she’s also not ready to dismiss its critics: “I think in the next session, you’re going to see legislators saying, ‘Let’s look at what’s working and what’s not working.’”

That’s what retired schoolteacher Phyllis Bush of Fort Wayne was hoping for when she got involved in the online petition drive. Bush, who helped start the Northeast Friends of Public Education, said the reforms that have come down over the past four years have been “too much, too soon.”

“There have been all these demands placed on teachers and students, without much evidence they were really working,” Bush said. “Along with parents who were seeing the impact on their children, they were starting to revolt.”

Maureen Hayden can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Bldg Wall Collapse 01 KipCor purchases partially collapsed downtown building A building that has long been a part of downtown Kokomo’s landscape will remain intact, but undergo extensive demolition, after being purchased by a company that has been active in the city’s redevelopment efforts. The Barko building, also known as t

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • mopeds Mo-ped law means some scooters now require license With more and more mo-peds hitting the streets, police are having a hard time enforcing new restrictions encompassed in the new scooter law. Mo-ped drivers can still cruise the streets and roads on their two-wheel machines, but the new state law, whi

    July 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • Supreme Court observers predict ‘wide open’ process of picking of next chief INDIANAPOLIS — State Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Dickson surprised observers in June when he decided to step down after a brief tenure in the leadership post. Another surprise may be in store when his replacement is named. A seven-member panel

    July 29, 2014

  • Council committee to present dog ordinance draft Aug. 11 Kokomo Common Council committee members will provide a draft of proposed changes to its dog ordinance at its Aug. 11 meeting. The release date for the draft was pushed back following a committee meeting where 25 members of the public aired their conc

    July 29, 2014

  • Indiana BMV asks court to delay vanity plate sales INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles has asked the state Supreme Court for permission to continue its suspension on sales of vanity plates until a court case is settled. The Indiana attorney general's office announced Monday it ha

    July 29, 2014

  • Higher ed chief rolls out class load campaign INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana's higher education commissioner wants college students to get the message that they should take at least 15 credit hours each semester if they expect to graduate on time. Commissioner Teresa Lubbers on Monday kicked off a

    July 29, 2014

  • Commission postpones rezoning vote for Functional Devices land TIPTON — Residents of Prairie Acres subdivision will have to wait at least two more weeks to learn the fate of a pair of zoning requests from Functional Devices. At Monday’s regularly-scheduled bi-weekly county commissioners meeting, city-county plan

    July 29, 2014

  • Illinois man leads police on high-speed chase PERU — An Illinois man driving at speeds of 120 mph led officers from three counties on a high-speed chase Sunday before crashing into a utility pole. Peru police say Isaac K. Hoefling, 31, Lamont, Illinois, was first pulled over by Howard County dep

    July 28, 2014

  • Permanent road closure has Miami Co. residents worried PERU — Residents who live near a safety-flare company that’s expanding north of Peru spoke out against a proposal to permanently close a section of county road that runs through the company’s facilities. Orion Safety Products, located at 3157 N. 500

    July 28, 2014

  • Gary Rhum bringing music lessons to Catholic school Rhum Academy of Music's owner is set to give all students at Sts. Joan of Arc & Patrick School music lessons next year as part of the school's curriculum. When Gary Rhum talks about why he loves to teach kids music, the long-time performer and instru

    July 28, 2014

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
US Ready to Slap New Sanctions on Russia Kerry: Not Worried About Israeli Criticism Boater Rescued From Edge of Kentucky Dam Girl Struck by Plane on Florida Beach Dies Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre House to Vote on Slimmed-down Bill for Border Looming Demand Could Undercut Flight Safety Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries