Linda Cross, an outspoken proponent of educational choice in her race for Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction, came within a few percentage points of upsetting the anointed candidate of the education establishment in an April run-off election.
Cross came out of nowhere in the primary against eight status quo candidates, pulling off a stunning primary upset with a paltry $12,000 war chest.
While her opponents have tried to label her April loss as a referendum on educational choice, it was nothing of the sort. If that had been the only issue, she might well have won, but several other issues – most notably her stance on prayer in schools and textbook choice – distracted and divided some who might otherwise have supported her.
Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson signaled support for Cross when he publicly blasted the education lobby’s excessive support for her opponent, but he never quite managed to openly and fully endorse her.
The educational unions and their allies spent hundreds of thousands of dollars some of which was funneled directly to her opponent through PACs, and some of which was used to fund smokescreen “infmercials” critical of educational choice.
The Cross campaign garnered national attention including a highly favorable editorial in the Wall Street Journal and a well publicized visit – and ringing endorsement – from former Secretary of Education William Bennett.
Educational choice proponents in Wisconsin are looking ahead eagerly to the next election.