In a race that was expected to be a close call according to recent polling, the GOP primary for state superintendent of public instruction will head to a runoff between Oklahoma Secretary of Education Ryan Walters and Shawnee Public Schools Superintendent April Grace.
With more than 99 percent of precincts reporting, Walters had received more than 41 percent of the vote and Grace had received more than 30 percent. All results posted by the Oklahoma State Election Board online are unofficial until they are certified by the board.
Also on Tuesday’s Republican primary ballot were Peggs Public Schools Superintendent John Cox and repeat candidate William Crozier. Cox, who has run for the position twice before as a Democrat, received about 24 percent of the vote, and Crozier received less than 4 percent.
The runoff election will take place on Aug. 23, and the general election is slated for Nov. 8.
Whichever candidate comes out on top during the August runoff will go on to face Oklahoma City Public Schools educator and former Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Jena Nelson, who is running as a Democrat.
Background on Walters and Grace
Walters was appointed as secretary of education by Gov. Kevin Stitt in 2020. He also serves as the executive director of the education advocacy group Every Kid Counts Oklahoma.
Walters previously taught advanced placement history at McAlester High School and Millwood High School in Oklahoma City and was an Oklahoma Teacher of the Year finalist in 2016.
Walters has grabbed headlines throughout his campaign by posting cell phone videos of himself in his car criticizing “woke” educators and other elements of public schools. He and Stitt recently came under fire after a report from The Frontier and Oklahoma Watch revealed that money distributed to Oklahoma families from the federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund for pandemic learning had been used for a number of non-education-related purposes.
During a debate between the Republican candidates held by NonDoc last week, Walters said the contract for GEER funding distribution was already in place when he took office in September 2020. A subsequent fact check by the journalism outlet The Frontier showed that Walters directed the vendor ClassWallet to allow parents to purchase any items available on the company’s platform.
Grace has served as the superintendent of Shawnee Public Schools since 2016 and has spent 30 years in public education in various positions, including as a teacher, building administrator and assistant superintendent. She was named 2021 State Superintendent of the Year by the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators.
A fact check from the state superintendent GOP debate by The Frontier
Grace and other Shawnee Public Schools officials have been criticized for how the district dealt with former assistant athletic director and basketball coach Ronald Arthur, who was arrested last year and subsequently charged with crimes for alleged sexual activity with a recently graduated student. Upon further investigation with search warrants, several admonishments were found in Arthur’s employment file from between 2007 and 2020.
During last week’s debate, Grace was asked about the issue.
“I can’t get into the specifics because of particular legal perimeters, but I can tell you a particular deputy actually didn’t know some of the aspects of the personnel file and misconstrued how many events and those sorts of things,” Grace said.
(Correction: This article was corrected at 11:16 p.m. on Tuesday, June 28, to reflect Nelson’s current employment.)