By Maureen Downey at the AJC
The 2014 race for state school superintendent may come down to two charismatic women, neither of whom has a background in education, Nancy Jester on the GOP side and Alisha Thomas Morgan on the Democratic side.
Today, Nancy Jester makes official her intent to run for John Barge’s job at the state Department of Education. Jester is the fourth Republican to announce. The others are: Richard Woods, a former teacher and school administrator; Fritzgerald Johnson, a businessman; and Matt Schultz, a Bartow County School Board member. Morgan has scheduled a press conference Tuesday afternoon at the Capitol where it is expected she will confirm that she, too, is running for state school superintendent.
Barge is leaving after one term to run for governor, in part because of the marginalization of DOE by his fellow Republican and now rival Gov. Nathan Deal.
The governor is noted for prizing loyalty above all else – including competency, according to critics of many of his appointments. So, when Barge announced his opposition to last year’s charter school amendment, Deal apparently was miffed.
Stepping into the breach is Jester, an actuarial consultant and a former DeKalb County school board member with a devoted fan base in north DeKalb. Her campaign website is up, and she announced her candidacy today.
The self-billed “mom with a calculator” was a smart board member, but struggled with creating allies and forging common ground with her DeKalb colleagues.
While Jester could claim that her colleagues were obstreperous, there’s little political payoff in being right if you can’t get anyone to vote with you. Jester will need to prove that she is capable of both articulating what needs to be done and amassing the political capital in the General Assembly and cooperation within DOE to move her agenda forward.
Expect several more candidates to join this fray in the next few months, making for an exciting and crowded contest for state school chief.