It’s been a rough first term for North Dakota Superintendent Kirsten Baesler. After getting the NDGOP endorsement in 2012 (the parties endorse a candidate even though the office is officially non-partisan) she cruised to an easy victory over Tracy Potter with 55 percent of the vote.
Since then, though, Baesler has had to navigate the tricky political waters around the implementation of the controversial Common Core standards – which she has been an outspoken supporter of – as well as ugliness from her personal life making statewide headlines.
Last year Baesler was arrested and booked, though not ultimately convicted, for allegedly assaulting her former fiance Todd Tschosik (then a teacher in the Bismarck public school system). The arrest uncovered what was a very ugly relationship between Baesler and the Bismarck teacher which also included an arrest for Tschosik for allegedly assaulting Baesler on a taxpayer-funded trip to Florida.
“We have accomplished much at the Department of Public Instruction in the last three years, but there is much more to do,” Baesler said in a press release announcing her campaign for a second term today. Interestingly, the release was sent out by DPI spokesman Dale Wetzel from his personal email account. Apparently Wetzel is working for Baesler’s campaign as well as for the Department of Public Instruction, which actually is not terribly unusual in North Dakota politics.
“We have a priceless opportunity to make sure our schools are places of inspiration and motivation for our students as they prepare for life, college and careers,” Baesler continued in the release which you can read in full below. “Now is the time we ensure that every school in North Dakota is a place that parents want to send their children, because students will be engaged in rich and relevant curriculum, and a place where educators want to teach, because there is joy and reward in teaching and learning.”
Honestly, despite the controversy and drama, Baesler probably has a pretty good shot at getting re-elected. I once thought that she might face a substantial challenge for the NDGOP endorsement backed by the anti-Common Core faction of the conservative base, but that movement seems to have faded after accomplishing very little during the legislative session last year.
I don’t sense that they’re a political force capable of mounting a serious challenge right now.
And while Baesler’s issues in her personal life made headlines, I doubt that her status as the victim of domestic violence is going to cost her a lot of votes.
There are legitimate areas for criticism, however. While Baesler’s support for Common Core as policy may not hurt her, there’s no question that the roll out of the testing in the schools was something of a disaster. Baesler points the finger at the company which was contracted to do the testing, which had troubles in various states.
Here’s the full release: