Editor's Note: This column was co-authored by Michael Petrilli.
Ever since election results from May 5th were finalized, a number of voices have loudly touted cherry-picked upsets—namely, the primary defeats of two incumbent Republicans in the Indiana legislature—to build what they want to present as a larger narrative of rising opposition to Common Core. This narrative is misleading. In fact, the GOP primary results from throughout this month showed, if anything, that opposing Common Core is not a ticket to office for a right-flank challenge to an incumbent, and the efficacy of attempts to take out Republicans from the right is vastly overrated. By the same token, there is mounting evidence that sitting Republicans who support Common Core will continue to be supported by their conservative base.
The activists hyping the Indiana routs only tell half the Hoosier primary story. It should be noted that the defeat of state Reps. Kathy Heuer and Rebecca Kubacki were as much about social issues as education reform, and anti-Common Core activists were pointedly less successful elsewhere in the Hoosier State. Republican state Rep. Robert Behning, an early supporter of Common Core in Indiana, won his primary against challenger Mike Scott, who campaigned vigorously against the standards and other productive elements of education reform. At the same time, GOP state Sen. James Merritt triumphed in his primary contest over Crystal Lamotte, who encouraged her supporters with the provocative message, “We need one last show of support against Common Core!”
In neighboring Ohio, incumbent state Rep. Stephanie Kunze notably defeated anti-Common Core candidate Pat Manley. Meanwhile, Kellie Kohl of Ohioans Against the Common Core lost her state Senate primary to Republican Shannon Jones, whom Kohl emphatically attacked for supporting Common Core, by the whopping margin of 69.5 to 30.5. If the conservative base of the Ohio Republican Party is champing at the bit to throw out Common Core and embrace a hardline Tea Party message, they have an exceptionally confounding way of showing it.
Michael Brickman is the national policy director at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, where he furthers educational excellence as a commentator on education-reform issues and is a regular contributor to the Flypaper blog and other publications. He currently lives in Washington, D.C. and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org