Education money rushing to Democrat Valarie Wilson

Republican Richard L. Woods and Democrat Valarie Wilson, candidates for state school superintendent, square off once again during a Atlanta Press Club debate on Sunday. AJC/Phil Skinner

Republican Richard L. Woods and Democrat Valarie Wilson, candidates for state school superintendent, square off during a Atlanta Press Club debate last month. AJC/Phil Skinner

We told you earlier this month that, if you’re looking for an upset on Tuesday, pay attention to the race for state school superintendent between Republican Richard Woods and Democrat Valarie Wilson.

Our AJC colleague James Salzer gives us a glimpse of Democrats engineering a surprise:

There are limits on how much teacher groups like the Georgia Association of Educators and the American Federation of Teachers can spend on their candidate for state school superintendent, Democrat Valarie Wilson.

So they are funneling big money through Better Georgia, a liberal group that has long been a thorn in the side of Gov. Nathan Deal.

Wilson, former chairwoman of the school board in Decatur, has raised about five times as much as Republican superintendent nominee, Richard Woods, a former teacher and administrator. That money advantage doesn’t guarantee success in a state that has been a Republican stronghold for a decade.

Under state law, individuals, businesses and groups can contribute about $16,000 directly to candidates, including money for primary runoffs. The Georgia Federation of Teachers contributed $9,300 to Wilson. The American Federation of Teachers gave $2,000, and the Georgia Association of Educators $6,300, according to disclosure records.

Like a lot of groups with a point of view, Better Georgia is registered as an “independent committee,” meaning it doesn’t have to disclose all its donors.

However, the group has disclosed getting $134,000 this year from the Georgia Association of Educators and $70,000 from the American Federation of Teachers. In turn, the group reported spending about $204,000 on media buys and phone calls to support Wilson.

GAE most recently sank $70,000 into the Wilson campaign, through Better Georgia, last week.

Combined with the Better Georgia money, Wilson will have had about $475,000 for her campaign against Woods, who reported raising about $56,000 as of Oct. 25.


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