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November 14, 2012

Ritz supporters turn back to social media to reach reluctant GOP lawmakers

INDIANAPOLIS — Some of the same forces that used social media to defeat the Republican state schools superintendent are mobilizing their resources again, this time to send a message to GOP leaders to pay attention to the election results.

They’re flooding the email inboxes of some key legislators and policy makers with an online petition that asks them to “honor” the 1.3 million votes cast for Democrat Glenda Ritz in her upset win over GOP incumbent Tony Bennett. 

The online petition drive was launched over the Veterans Day weekend by some pro-Ritz grassroots organizations, including a group called Republicans for Ritz. 

It came in response to public statements made by Gov.-elect Mike Pence and GOP legislative leaders, who downplayed the significance of Ritz’s election and claimed their own victories as mandates for continuing with the sweeping education reforms championed by Bennett and locked into law by a Republican-controlled legislature. 

By mid-Tuesday, more than 3,000 people had signed the online petition, triggering a flood of emails into the inboxes of legislators who sit on the General Assembly’s education committees and those belonging to the members of the policy-making State Board of Education.

Cathy Fuentes-Rohrer, a Bloomington mother of four school-aged children and Ritz supporter, helped launch the petition drive through the influential social media site, Change.org.

She did so, she said, because she was “astounded” by the comments made by Republican leaders last week. The day after the election, Pence said Indiana voters delivered a “strong affirmation of the progress on education reform in this state” by keeping GOP legislative majorities. 

“I thought, ‘You’re trying to take away our voice when we just raised it,’ ” said Fuentes-Rohrer. “It was a clear to us we had to keep the momentum going.” 

The online petition, which can be found on several sites, including that of the Northeast Friends of Public Education at neifpe.blogspot.com, starts by reminding voters that Ritz won more votes than Pence did. It goes on to say that voters rejected the “top-down, corporate reform model imposed by the state.”

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