PHOENIX — Kathy Hoffman, a Democrat running for state superintendent of public instruction, came under fire several times during Wednesday’s candidate debate for using anti-police rhetoric against her opponent.
Each candidate began the debate by introducing himself and herself. Republican nominee Frank Riggs talked about his career in and out of the education field. He served on the U.S. House Committee on Education and Workforce and chaired a subcommittee on early childhood in the 1990s and discussed his military and law enforcement experience before that.
“I served three years in the United States Army,” Riggs explained. “I served seven years as a police officer. When I was Ms. Hoffman’s age, I was working full-time as a sworn police officer.”
Hoffman, the Democrat, interjected with an eyebrow-raising response.
“What we don’t need as state superintendent is a policeman,” she said.
Riggs, surprised by the disparaging comment, laughed.
“I don’t find his laughing to be appropriate,” Hoffman said. “It’s absolutely condescending to attack me as a teacher and to treat — this kind of condescending giggles is unacceptable.”
The anti-police rhetoric came up again later in the debate after Riggs cited one of Hoffman’s recent tweets implying that school resource officers are racist.
“I strongly disagree with the plan to double funding for school police officers,” Hoffman wrote on Twitter in April. “Why? Discrimination does not stop at the school doors.”
Riggs criticized the Democrat’s tweet and countered that he is “proud of [his] service” as in law enforcement.
“That was a direct slur against law enforcement officers suggesting that somehow a school resource officer would discriminate against minority students,” the Republican said. “As a former law enforcement officer, I know law enforcement officers are colorblind in the way they perform their duties. She really ought to apologize to the law enforcement profession for making that demeaning comment.”
“First of all, no one is colorblind,” Hoffman, the Democrat, responded. “To say that we should be colorblind and that there’s no discrimination in our schools is shocking, in fact, coming from someone, anyone with that type of experience.”
Hoffman has also received widespread criticism for hiring Noah Karvelis — a controversial political activist and self-avowed socialist — as her campaign manager. She attempted to separate herself from the activist in a previous debate. Hoffman used public “Clean Elections” funding to pay Karvelis more than $25,000 for his part-time work on her campaign.