The effort to recall state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna has officially failed, with backers falling well short of the 158,000-plus signatures needed by today's deadline to force a special election in August. An effort to target two Boise legislators for recall, GOP Sen. Mitch Toryanski and Rep. Julie Ellsworth, for their support of Luna's school reform bills, also fell short, gathering only about a quarter of the required signatures. Morgan Hill, campaign manager, said, “It's not that we didn't have support for it. I think that people all over the state were looking to sign a recall petition. We're still getting people even today who are coming up to us. But a lot of people didn't have access to us, they didn't know about it. … A lot of folks didn't even know who Tom Luna was to begin with, which was the most surprising thing.”
Hill, a Boise pilot, said the campaign raised only about $4,500, plus another $15,000 worth of in-kind advertising donations, and relied entirely on volunteers. Though it reported in early June that it had more than 75,000 signatures, Hill said an “error in the numbers” forced a recount yesterday, which led to the conclusion late last night that the campaign had gathered only about 50,000 signatures for the statewide recall petition. “Yeah, the bar was very high, and maybe unachievable, but we did a very great thing, and that's involving people in the political process,” Hill said. “Something we can look forward to in the future is that we have so many more people, tens of thousands more people now, who are involved in the political process who would not have been otherwise.”
Hill said the campaign also was hurt by the Idaho Education Association's decision not to support the recall effort; the teachers' union backed a successful referendum drive that will place all three of Luna's controversial new school reform laws on the ballot for possible repeal in the November 2012 election.
Hill will hold a press conference on the state Capitol steps at 4 p.m. today, and he said the campaign consider forming a new nonpartisan watchdog organization. “This was all started because of one man's reckless leadership and his intention to basically deconstruct the education system and basically feed it off to special interests,” Hill said. “The people came together because of that. Despite that we didn't make it, we did accomplish a much bigger goal, which is involving so many more people into the political process. I think that is the real victory, that a lot more people are aware now.”