Holtz says he hasn’t gotten any money from outside groups
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin state superintendent candidate Lowell Holtz said Wednesday that he hasn’t courted any outside groups to spend money in the race against incumbent Tony Evers, even though he wrote in a newly released email that a “reform group” was going to do “all the fundraising” and organize his campaign.
Holtz sent that email discussing the pending campaign on Jan. 12, 2016, from his public school account when he was superintendent of the Whitnall School District. The liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now obtained it in an open records request and released it Wednesday.
Evers campaign spokeswoman Amanda Brink said she wasn’t surprised by the email.
“The last two weeks of this race have shown us that Lowell Holtz can’t be trusted to look out for anyone other than himself,” she said.
Holtz told The Associated Press that the group he was referring to in the email was Wisconsin Needs Necessary Education Reform, or WINNER, an education-focused group formed by former Republican state Rep. Don Pridemore, of Hartland.
Pridemore’s support for Holtz has been well known. Holtz talked about it publicly as far back as July.
Both Holtz and Pridemore said the group has raised no money for Holtz. But Holtz said Pridemore did help early in the race with introducing him to people and organizations to meet with. Pridemore ran for state superintendent in 2013 and lost to Evers.
“We wanted to remain independent,” Pridemore said of his group, which he said has 25 paid members and 500 others on a mailing list. “We wanted to let people know who we felt was the best candidate but not get directly involved in the campaign.”
Pridemore’s group is also strongly opposed to the Common Core academic standards, which Holtz opposes and Evers supports.
Holtz finished a distant second to Evers in Tuesday’s primary. Unofficial results showed Evers got 70 percent of the vote compared with 23 percent for Holtz. They will face each other in the April 4 primary, with the winner elected as the state’s top education official.
Holtz said in an interview immediately after his second-place finish that he welcomed outside money to help him get his message out.
“I’m an educator,” Holtz said. “If outside money comes in to help get my message out, am I going to say no don’t get my message out?”
But on Wednesday he said that as far as he knew, no outside money had come into the race.
“I haven’t courted anybody, I haven’t heard from anybody,” Holtz said.
Evers had 15 times as much cash on hand as Holtz through the first five weeks of the year. But Evers said Tuesday that he could be defeated if a large influx of money comes in from national school choice advocates to help Holtz. Evers opposes expanding the private school voucher program, while Holtz is an advocate of the effort.
“The folks that support the vouchers nationally have lots more money than I could ever raise in the state of Wisconsin,” Evers said.
The release of the Holtz email from 2016 comes a week after emails and documents were made public by another candidate, John Humphries, that showed that Holtz had met with unnamed business leaders to discuss the race. Humphries said Holtz offered him a $150,000 state job and broad authority over the state’s largest schools if he agreed to get out of the race. Holtz said the business leaders created the document, which he called a rough draft, and accused Humphries of lying.
One Wisconsin Now research director Jennie Dye said Holtz using his public school email to send a message related to the campaign, and his conversation with Humphries about an alleged job offer, shows “an abysmal lack of ethics and commitment to public service in pursuit of his personal political ambitions and enrichment.”