NewsEDlection 2020  

The 25 Former Educators Poised to Win State Legislative Seats on Election Day

By Asher Lehrer-Small | October 28, 2020

Four of the 25 former educators who bested incumbent candidates in state primary elections this year. Clockwise from top-left: Neomi Martinez-Parra, Ronald Nate, Larry Lambert, and Christina Bohannan (photos from candidates’ websites)

Former President Lyndon B. Johnson once taught public school. So did Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). In 2013, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) even put his credentials as a former English teacher to use in Congress, marking up in red pen a letter on immigration reform that Republicans sent to former House Speaker John Boehner.

Teachers have long found a place in politics, but after nationwide #RedForEd teacher protests for higher pay and better school funding in early 2018, the midterm elections saw a surge of former educators running for office. Jahana Hayes, 2016 National Teacher of the Year, prominently won a Connecticut congressional seat. Yet not all candidates were so successful. Just over a third of former educators who advanced past the primary election to the general won their races.

This year, educators are again running for office up and down the ballot. At the state level, where most education policy is generated, at least 25 former educators bested incumbent candidates in the primary elections. We’ve listed them here so you can track their races on Election Day:

Alaska

Ken McCarty, Republican, House District 13:

  • Education resume: Master’s degree in education, ran a school for special education students, developed vocational charter school
  • In his own words: “A student should not have to wait until 18 to start an apprenticeship, rather should be nearing Journeyman status by 18 to 20-yrs-old. I also believe that college bound High School students should be challenged to do so by their Sophomore year (e.g. concurrent enrollment).”

Delaware

Eric Morrison, Democrat, House District 27:

  • Education resume: Former teacher and assistant director at Back to Basics Learning Dynamics
  • In his own words: “In Delaware, we need major reform of public school funding…. [S]chools should be funded based on need, not just pupil count.”

Larry Lambert, Democrat, House District 7:

  • Education resume: Former public school art teacher
  • In his own words: “[A]ll of Delaware’s children deserve a quality and equitable education, from pre-k to university.”

Larry Lambert (larryfordelaware.com)

Florida

Omari Hardy, Democrat running for House District 88:

  • Education resume: Former middle school civics teacher, fourth-generation public school teacher
  • In his own words: “Omari will propose legislation to increase funding for public schools and create a progressive funding model that sends more money to the schools and communities that need it most.”

Iowa

Christina Bohannan, Democrat, House District 85:

  • Education resume: Professor at University of Iowa College of Law
  • In her own words: “We have been disinvesting in education over the past couple of decades with legislative funding that has not even kept up with inflation. … We should reinvest in education at all levels, from pre-kindergarten all the way through college and graduate/professional education.”

Christina Bohannan (bohannanforiowa.com)

Idaho

Aaron von Ehlinger, Republican, House District 6A:

  • Education resume: Substitute school teacher
  • In his own words: “Eliminate Common Core. Focus on students and families. Support local control. Get Bureaucrats out.”

Julie Yamamoto, Republican, House District 10A:

  • Education resume: Former first-grade and seventh-grade teacher, former high school principal
  • In her own words: “The most significant factor in student learning is the teacher and a career in education has never been more challenging … We must recruit and retain a deeper pool of the best of the best.”

Ronald Nate, Republican, House District 34B:

  • Education resume: Economics professor at BYU-Idaho
  • In his own words: “Keep Great Teachers in Idaho Classrooms. Eliminate Common Core top-down Mandates!! Freedom for Parents and Districts to Choose the best Education.”

Ronald Nate (nateforidaho.com)

Kansas

Steven Howe, Republican, House District 71:

  • Education resume: Fifth-grade humanities teacher and cross country running coach
  • In his own words: “It is my desire to be a servant leader for the people of the 71st District.”

Brenda Dietrich, Republican, Senate District 20:

  • Education resume: 40-year career as a teacher, building administrator, and superintendent
  • In her own words: “I’ve spent decades as an educator helping mold the next generation, teaching them about personal responsibility and hard work, only to be disappointed that those values were lacking in our legislative process.”

North Carolina

Kimberly Hardy, Democrat, House District 43:

  • Education resume: Former school social worker, professor at Fayetteville State University
  • In her own words: “We need to… rebuild our schools… provide a nurse in every public school, establish universal pre-K.”

New Hampshire

Amanda Toll, Democrat, House District Cheshire-16:

  • Education resume: Award-winning school teacher, Excellence in Jewish Education award from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation
  • In her own words: “[Toll] cares deeply about many issues including … excellent educational opportunities.”

New Mexico

Leo Jaramillo, Democrat, Senate District 5

  • Education resume: Former middle school teacher
  • In his own words: “I understand the importance of adequate funding for public schools and increasing teacher salaries (pre-K-12) to ensure we keep certified teachers in the classroom while also building a career pipeline for Education Assistants”

Siah Correa Hemphill, Democrat, Senate District 28

  • Education resume: 25-year career as teacher, school psychologist, and director of special education
  • In her own words: “I support: Universal Pre-K Education for all 3- and 4-year-olds in New Mexico. Expansion of after-school programs. Raising public school teachers’ salaries. Trauma-informed training for all public school teachers as part of their professional development.”

Pamela Cordova, Democrat, Senate District 30

  • Education resume: 25-year high school teacher
  • In her own words: “We must continue investments in early childhood education, address teacher shortages and close the digital divide in rural and Native communities.”

Neomi Martinez-Parra, Democrat, Senate District 35

  • Education resume: Special education teacher
  • In her own words: “[M]y goal is to bring the voices of our children, parents, and teachers to the table when shaping public education policy in the state. I advocate for the full funding of education with an emphasis on teacher’s pay and investments in the classroom.”

Neomi Martinez-Parra (https://neomi4nmsenate.com/)

New York

Jenifer Rajkumar, Democrat, Assembly District 38

  • Education resume: Professor of political science at the City University of New York
  • In her own words: “Jenifer will strengthen and expand New York State’s free-college tuition program [and] support the creation and expansion of after-school programs and extracurricular activities.”

Oklahoma

Blake “Cowboy” Stephens, Republican, Senate District 3:

  • Education resume: 23 years as a public school counselor
  • In his own words: “Make education funding a priority, appreciate our educators by being competitive in our region.”

Rhode Island

Jonathan Acosta, Democrat, Senate District 16:

  • Education resume: Former middle school math teacher and school administrator
  • In his own words: “[Acosta] will revisit the funding formula and provide more support for special populations, low income students, and English language learners. … He believes that all Rhode Islanders should have access to a tuition-free college education.”

Nathan Biah, Democrat, House District 3:

  • Education resume: Former math teacher, school administrator and principal
  • In his own words: “We need an elected leader that cares about their constituents like they do their family.”

Tennessee

Rebecca Alexander, Republican, House District 7:

  • Education resume: Former high school English teacher
  • In her own words: “Stand for states’ rights.”

Wisconsin

Kristina Shelton, Democrat, Assembly District 90:

  • Education resume: Former health and physical education teacher
  • In her own words: “All Wisconsinites deserve access to fully funded, high-performing public education, including college and technical training. … Wisconsin must also sunset the state voucher program that sends over $350 million of our tax dollars to private schools without oversight, accountability, or protections for students and teachers.”

West Virginia

Dana Ferrell, Republican, House District 39:

  • Education resume: 30-year public school teacher
  • In his own words: “Support for our teachers and students. More vocational instruction at our high schools. Member of AFT.”

Amy Nichole Grady, Republican, Senate District 4:

  • Education resume: Career teacher
  • In her own words: “[Grady] will be an honest and trustworthy representative for Mason, Jackson, Putnam, and Roane counties.”

David Stover, Republican, Senate District 9:

  • Education resume: Former teacher, administrator
  • In his own words: N/A

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