Arizona's Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman has been defeated by her Republican opponent months after the state's Department of Education gained media attention for promoting an LGBT chatroom for teens.
Unofficial results last updated Monday afternoon show Republican Tom Horne leading Democrat incumbent Kathy Hoffman by less than 9,000 votes, equivalent to approximately 0.4% of all ballots cast. Hoffman conceded to Horne Thursday, asserting in a Twitter statement that "we came up short."
"I want to thank my supporters, volunteers, and staff who stood by me during this election. And I especially want to thank my family for all of their love and support," she added. "Serving as Arizona's Superintendent of Public Instruction has been among the greatest honors of my life. I'm proud of the incredible work we did. I remain more inspired than ever by the amazing students, educators, & schools across our state. Our future is bright because of you."
Hoffman's loss came during an election cycle when other statewide races were won by Democrats, including victories by Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly over his Republican challenger Blake Masters and Democrat Katie Hobbs over Republican Kari Lake in the gubernatorial election.
The Hoffman-led Department of Education came under fire in May after the Twitter account Libs of Tik Tok reported the Arizona Department of Education's website contained a link to a chatroom for LGBT students as part of a list of "Resources for LGBTQ+ Students, Educators, and Families."
The chatroom, Q Chat Space, identifies itself as a "Community for LGBTQ+ Teens" that enables them to "find and give support, have fun, [and] connect around shared interests and get good information."
The website provides users with the ability to join live chats and support groups facilitated by "experienced staff who work at LGBTQ+ centers around the United States." The website acknowledges that its "facilitators are NOT mental health professionals."
The Q Chat Space features an option at the bottom of the screen to "Click/tap here for a quick escape" that automatically redirects to the Google homepage. The presence of a "quick escape" allows teenagers to quickly sign off in case their parents, who may or may not approve of the LGBT lifestyle, walk into the room.
During a debate in September, Horne criticized the Q Chat Space as a dangerous outlet for predators. The Phoenix-based CBS 5 reports that Hoffman responded by saying the website is a resource recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC includes Q Chat Space as a recommended resource for LGBT youth, providing "a digital LGBTQ+ center where teens join live-chat, professionally facilitated, online support groups."
Also in September, a complaint was filed to remove Q Chat Space from the Arizona Department of Education website.
Shiry Sapir, the chairwoman of the Kari Lake campaign's education advocates coalition, told CBS 5 of her concerns about children not having parental supervision when using the site.
"They do have an escape button where the child can get out of the chat immediately when the parent walks into the room," Sapir said. "Bill of rights in Arizona specifically states that parents must give consent and have the full authority."
She also said the site requires children to enter their email addresses, phone numbers and zip codes when signing up.
"We don't know who gets a hold of that information, if it's being sold in the dark web," Sapir said. "If predators are able to get that information, then go specifically after the children."
According to the website, the information is not given to anyone without permission from the participant and is used to verify that those signing up aren't predators.
Hoffman's defeat comes as public schools' promotion of LGBT affirmation has become a significant issue in American politics.
School districts in Massachusetts and Florida are among many that have faced lawsuits after school officials began identifying their children by a name that corresponds with their gender identity as opposed to their biological sex at school while continuing to refer to the children by their given name in front of their parents.
Concerns about the usurpation of parental rights, especially regarding children's sexual orientation and gender identity, prompted Florida to pass a bill designed to protect parental rights in education.
Florida law prohibits school officials from discussing matters related to sexual orientation and gender identity with students in kindergarten through third grade. It requires schools to inform parents about all their children's mental and emotional health issues.
Hoffman's defeat occurred the same night that candidates endorsed by the 1776 Project PAC performed well in several races across the U.S. The 1776 Project PAC supports "school board members nationwide who want to reform our public education system by promoting patriotism and pride in American history" and is "committed to abolishing critical race theory and 'The 1619 Project' from the public school curriculum."
While some public schools districts' alleged teaching of elements related to critical race theory and LGBT ideology has led to lawsuits and the creation of advocacy groups like the 1776 Project PAC, individual parents have descended upon school board meetings across the nation to express outrage about the presence of sexually explicit material in school libraries.
The Biden administration faced massive pushback last year after U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland asked federal law enforcement officials to coordinate with state and local authorities to address the "disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, and teachers."
The memorandum in question was crafted in response to a request from the National School Boards Association for "federal assistance to stop threats and acts of violence against public school children, public school board members, and other public school district officials and educators."
Emails obtained by Parents Defending Education, another advocacy organization that has emerged in response to parents' concerns, revealed the U.S. Department of Education collaborated on the letter with the NSBA.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org