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Unlike past years, local school board elections lack animating issues

October 29, 2013 Updated: October 29, 2013 at 9:25 am
photo - A collection of materials Wednesday, October 23, 2013, from school board candidates in the upcoming election.  Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
A collection of materials Wednesday, October 23, 2013, from school board candidates in the upcoming election. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

It might be recall fatigue. Or lingering frustration over the government shutdown. The lack of hot-button issues also could be a factor.

Whatever the reason, "low-key" is the best description of this year's school board races.

"There's not a lot of drama, but even for an off-year election, it seems like there is a low amount of knowledge that there's even an election going on," said Kevin Vick, president of the Colorado Springs Education Association, the region's only collective bargaining group for teachers.

Unlike other years, there's no hard-core movement to oust incumbents and replace them with teams of candidates pushing a certain agenda or seeking to reorganize a district.

Some candidates have barely campaigned. Dennis Jones, who's running for the seat he was appointed to in April in Cripple Creek-Victor School District RE-1, was hanging up a sign in town Friday and put an ad in the local newspaper.

That's about it.

"I didn't expend any funds in the first recording period," he said, "and I'm not accepting any funds either. It's a small district and a small community, and I don't feel like I have to run a high-profile campaign."

All five school board seats are up for election on the Nov. 5 ballot. Two have two people in the running, two have one candidate each, and one did not draw candidates.

"Whenever you serve on a school board, it's basically out of your love for the kids," Jones said. "Almost every one of us running has said the reason is that we feel the community hasn't been listened to, and we want to represent the community so our kids receive the best education they possibly can."

Five local school districts aren't on the ballot because they did not have contested seats. A sixth, Lewis-Palmer School District 38, has only one candidate but appears on the ballot because of a proposed mill levy increase.

According to the Colorado Secretary of State's campaign finance filings from Oct. 15, candidates in Colorado Springs School District 11 have raised the most money, with Jim Mason leading the pack. His committee reported $5,735 in campaign contributions. One donation came from a candidate in another school district.

Henry Allen, who's seeking to hold on to his seat in Falcon School District 49, contributed $100 to Mason's campaign. Mason made an unsuccessful bid for a D-11 seat in 2011.

The committee of D-11 incumbent Luann Long has raised $5,100, and Linda Mojer's committee has reported $3,915.

D-11 candidate James Tucker has spent $5,467 but did not report contributions, indicating he is paying for the expenses.

Two D-11 candidates, Charlie Bobbitt, who previously served on the board, and incumbent the Rev. Al Loma, had not reported contributions or expenditures as of Oct. 15.

Long, who was elected to the board in 2009 and wants to keep her position, said while this election seems to lack fanfare, she's worked harder than the previous election.

"I've been to more places and talked to more people and had more face-to-face contact," she said. "I did a postcard mailer and signs, and canvassed. I talk to whoever answers the door."

Long is one of three D-11 candidates who earned the endorsement and support of a committee based out of the teachers union that Vick heads. Public Educators Advocating for Kids donated $2,000 to each of the campaigns of Long, Mason and Mojer - the three candidates who have raised the most money in D-11.

The Public Education Committee, based out of the offices of the state teachers union, the Colorado Education Association, also gave $5,500 to six area candidates.

No dues from members are used to support candidates, Vick said. Donations come from volunteer contributions.

Vick said his organization gives all D-11 candidates the opportunity to fill out a questionnaire and participate in an interview process.

This year, a big question was how candidates plan to bring financial and other resources to education and how should they be used. Class size and working conditions also are important to the local teachers union, he said.

The committee also provides door hangers, canvassing, sponsored forums and other marketing tools to candidates it backs.

"Democracy depends on citizens being informed and being motivated enough to vote," he said. "We try to get as much information out there as possible."

And to anyone who doesn't think school board candidates matter much, Vick reminds voters that school board members will have the say on how the nearly $1 billion from the statewide education financing measure known as Amendment 66 would be allocated in their districts - should it pass.

"Education is always a huge political football," Vick said. "That's why we're involved. We believe the people doing the work should have a seat at the table when it comes to opinions on how it should be done."

The next financial report from candidates is due to the state Friday.


Number of VOTERS BY SCHOOL DISTRICT and returned ballots

Active Voter Returned

Ballots as of Oct. 24*

Colorado Springs School District 11: 36,620 12,980

Academy School District 20: 62,864 6,679

Falcon School District 49: 43,936 3,799

Harrison School District 2: 29,803 2,246

Widefield School District 3: 24,370 2,596

Lewis-Palmer School District 38: 22,206 3,746

Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8: 11,666 748

Cripple Creek-Victor School District RE- 3,029 438

Peyton School District 23JT: 2,628 350

Ellicott School District 22: 2,477 296

Miami-Yoder School District 60JT: 1,097 172

Hanover School District 28: 911 143

Source: El Paso County and Teller County Clerk and Recorder's Offices

*Five school districts are not on ballots due to uncontested races: Woodland Park School District RE-2, Calhan School District RJ1, Cheyenne Mountain School District 12, Edison School District 54JT, Manitou Springs School District 14.

A total of 38,227 ballots had been returned from El Paso County and 2,411 ballots from Teller County voters, as of Oct. 24, according to the Colorado Secretary of State's Office.

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