Garcia, Douglas in tight race for schools chief

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX (AP) -- The race to become Arizona's top education official remained too close to call Wednesday as Republicans looked for a clean sweep of statewide races and Democrats held out hope for a comeback.

Republican Diane Douglas led Democrat David Garcia on Wednesday evening by more than 28,000 votes with hundreds of thousands of early and provisional ballots outstanding across the state.

Douglas ran unabashedly as a one-issue candidate who would repeal Common Core, the education standards adopted in 2010 that she said amount to federal government overreach under the Obama administration.

She told reporters Tuesday night that her campaign is "very optimistic" about the numbers and that positive returns are an indication of parents wanting a say in their children's education. The former Peoria school board member ran a low-key general election campaign that targeted the votes of mostly parents and teachers, said her spokeswoman, Sandra Dowling.

Garcia, an Army veteran who has a lengthy background in education, said politicians like Douglas are demonizing standards that simply outline what students need to know at the end of each grade level. He said Tuesday night that education shouldn't be politicized and that he knew the race would be tough.

"We feel like we have put forth an excellent effort and put it all out there," Garcia said Tuesday night.

Many members of the GOP establishment endorsed Garcia because of Douglas' strong opposition to Common Core. Dowling said Republican support for Garcia has been overstated.

The winner will replace John Huppenthal, who fell to Douglas in the primary after stumbling through an error-prone campaign.

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PHOENIX (AP) -- Democrat David Garcia and Republican Diane Douglas are locked in a tight race to become Arizona's top education official.

Initial returns show the two candidates separated by a few hundred votes. The initial tally consists of early mailed-in ballots.

Garcia has been endorsed by traditional Republican groups. That is because some members of the GOP establishment are wary of Douglas' plan to abolish the Common Core education standards.

Douglas upset incumbent John Huppenthal in the primary and believes Common Core is a classic example of government overreach that needs to stop. Garcia calls it an extreme and misinformed viewpoint because Common Core provides a benchmark for delivering a quality education.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.