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Originally published Friday, November 7, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Randy Dorn defeats Bergeson for state schools post

Randy Dorn, who said only 2 percent of voters recognized his name six months ago, defeated three-term incumbent Terry Bergeson in a race to be the state's top school official.

Seattle Times education reporter

Randy Dorn, who said only 2 percent of voters recognized his name six months ago, defeated three-term incumbent Terry Bergeson in a race to be the state's top school official.

Bergeson, who held the job for a dozen years, wanted one last term as Superintendent of Public Instruction to make sure the reforms she's championed will last, including a test called the Washington Assessment of Student Learning.

But the voters decided to go with someone new — someone who said he'd work to ditch the WASL, a test he says is too long and too expensive.

"A lot of people did not give me a chance because I was running against a three-term incumbent," Dorn said. "I just believe people were looking for a change."

His first order of business: a comprehensive review of the WASL.

Two other state races were decided Thursday. Democrat Peter Goldmark declared victory in the state lands-commissioner race over two-term Republican incumbent Doug Sutherland, and Democrat Jim McIntire defeated Republican Allan Martin for state treasurer, which was an open seat.

Bergeson initially thought the results in her race wouldn't be clear until Friday, but she conceded Thursday afternoon when Dorn's lead widened. She pledged to help Dorn as he moves into the job, then figure out her next step, which she said will involve schools.

"I'll never be done with education," she said.

Both Dorn and Bergeson started their careers as small-town teachers. Dorn also has worked as a high-school principal, a state legislator and, most recently, as executive director of Public School Employees of Washington, which represents teacher's aides, bus drivers and other school employees. In the Legislature, he helped write a sweeping education bill, passed in 1993, that called for new learning standards and a test to measure whether students reach them.

Some say Dorn won't be a big change from Bergeson, since they both believe that the state should have an exam to judge what students are learning and that students should have to pass a high-school version of that test to graduate.

Some questioned whether Dorn won because so much money was spent on his behalf during the campaign — especially $400,000 from the Service Employees International Union. SEIU is the parent union for Public School Employees of Washington.

"The money clearly made a difference," said Stephen Mullin, president of the Washington Roundtable, a business group.

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Others, however, interpret the vote as a mandate for change.

The results reflect dissatisfaction with Bergeson's performance, said Mary Lindquist, president of the Washington Education Association, the teachers union Bergeson once led.

"Under Dr. Bergeson's leadership, there's been way too much emphasis on high-stakes testing and far too little leadership to address the real problem of the underfunding of our schools," Lindquist said.

Mullin, of the Roundtable, supported Bergeson but said Thursday that he has known Dorn a long time and doesn't expect any problems working with him.

The Roundtable, he said, looks forward to learn more about Dorn's plans for the WASL.

But Mullin also noted that the state superintendent does not have the power to switch tests, or make many big decisions without approval from the state Legislature and the governor.

"He'll be in there lobbying with everybody else," he said.

Bergeson supporters thanked her for what she's done in the past 12 years.

"Nobody has worked harder for kids or schools," said Lisa Macfarlane of the League of Education Voters. The League didn't endorse either candidate, but Macfarlane personally supported Bergeson.

Bergeson knew it would be a tough road to get to a fourth term, Macfarlane said, "but she doesn't walk away from a good fight, and she had one."

Linda Shaw: 206-464-2359 or lshaw@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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