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Colorado Springs-area voters return many to school boards, but oust some incumbents

November 5, 2013 Updated: November 6, 2013 at 10:03 am
Caption +
Jim Mason gives a hug to LuAnn Long as early returns in the election show them both in the lead for three positions on the District 11 School Board. They were attending a watch party at The Coffee Exchange on Tuesday, November 5, 2013.. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

Voters rewarded most incumbents on local school boards for a job well done by returning them to office, but a few fell shy of grabbing enough votes Tuesday night, according to unofficial election results.

LuAnn Long, who has been on the Colorado Springs School District 11 board for four years, took home the most votes from the region's largest district. But fellow director, The Rev. Al Loma, came in fifth of the six D-11 candidates, his second loss for public office this year. Loma ran for Colorado Springs City Council's District 5 seat in April and placed last of the four candidates. He could not be reached Tuesday night for comment.

"This election was hard to gauge," Long said. "It seemed low-key, but I've worked twice as hard as I did last time."

In Falcon School District 49, Henry Allen Jr. did not garner enough support to be re-elected, but incumbent Tammy Harold, board president, did.

Allen received the lowest total of the six candidates.

"Since I've been on the board, we've always tried to work together and move forward," Allen said. ". Not really sure what the voters are saying, but the voters have spoken, so it's time to move on and take a break from the job that doesn't pay.

"It was a good fight."

Incumbent Theresa Watson came in first in the Widefield School District 3, but incumbent Andre Gutierrez was the odd person out, receiving the fewest amount of votes in the four-person race.

Academy school district 20

Incumbents Linda Van Matre, board president, and Catherine Bullock, board treasurer, held on to their at-large seats in Academy School District 20, one of region's top performing and most affluent districts.

Van Matre was visibly anxious before securing her spot, wringing her hands and quickly refreshing a feed of counted votes at a gathering for supporters of her race. After the win, her mood changed.

"I feel so humbled and proud to be re-elected. I'm so looking forward to the next four years," she said.

Joining the board will be Larry Borland. Borland retired in June after five years in the district's head security seat.

Tuesday night was Borland's second attempt at a political position in El Paso County - he ran for El Paso County Sheriff in 2010 and lost.

"This is feeling better than that," he said, as the tally rolled in.


Endorsements from local and state teachers' unions helped boost the campaigns of incumbent LuAnn Long, along with Jim Mason and Linda Mojer, helping them claim victory. The three held on over opponents Charlie Bobbitt, Al Loma and James Tucker.

Mojer, who led an unsuccessful bid for Colorado Springs City Council in April, said she'd had no expectations in this race.

"I always wanted to give back and have a passion for education and feel very strongly about the importance of early education as the starting point for lifelong learning," she said.

Mason said he never took a win for granted.

"I am one of hte most blessed men on this earth all because of education. I want that for every one of our children," he said.


Cripple Creek-Victor School District RE-1's incumbent in District E, Dennis Jones, won by a hefty margin over opponent Rich Warrino.

All five seats were open, and all but one is filled. Incumbent Dennis Jones, with 63 percent of the vote, and Tana Rice, with 61 percent of the vote, easily won the two contested seats. Two seats were unopposed and belong to Timothy Braun, District B; and incumbent Don Daniel, District C. The new board will appoint a director for District D.

Rice hopes to re-instill pride in the district, which she said has been dwindling. She also yearns to get parents more involved.

"We (my husband and I) are alumni of the school district," she said "It's really great to come back and give back to the school."

Jones served as the assistant boys and girls basketball coach for Cripple Creek-Victor high school before assuming board's presidency after a resignation in April.

"The struggles we are always going to have are always budgetary stuff," he said.


The Ellicott School District 22 board has faced several recall efforts in recent years, so there was not much interest in the seats. Incumbent Bea Twiss was unopposed, as were newcomers Gary Dahn and Michael Dahn, who are father and son.

Gary Dahn, who had started one of the unsuccesful recall efforts, predicts there will be more cooperation.

Michael Dahn said he and his father "have our own voices and won't always agree on everything. But we want people to be able to communicate with the board, especially parents, and not be pushed away."

Robert McWilliams was well ahead of Brian Murray for a two-year seat. "I will do the best job I can to bring the community back into our schools," McWilliams said.


President Tammy Harold received the most votes in unofficial returns, followed by Kevin Butcher and David Moore.

Lingering public discontent with the district's board likely helped newcomers get elected, said Moore, an Army veteran who worked for 21 years with the U.S. Postal Service and who made an unsuccessful run for Colorado Springs City Council in April.

"Once we can start developing a trust factor. then we'll be able to do more things for the district that are positive," he said.


Incumbent Suzanne Clark Foster and Loretta Kimball were running neck-and-neck for the two open seats, with Eric K. Bentley Jr., a firefighter and husband of Dawn Bentley, who previously served on the board for two terms lagging in third place.


Incumbents Mark A. McPherson and Cathie Salmon-Wolff were winning the top two spots in Hanover School District 28.

Edward Sweazy was behind the leaders.

McPherson credited his victory to success in the classrooms of the rural district, with increased test scores and enrollment growth.

"I though our community wants to continue doing what's best for kids, and I'm glad to help them do it," McPherson said.


Reform candidates were winning in Harrison School District 2.

The district had undergone controversial but successful academic reforms and voters apparently liked the pay-for-performance program that ties teacher pay to students' success.

Three members of the old reform board were term limited and could not run for election. One incumbent, Victor Torres, remains and Ellen Gonzalez was unopposed for a two-year seat.

Doriena Longmire, who was winning one of the four-year seats, said, "We are all on the same page. Reforms are working and it doesn't make sense to change it."

Also winning were Joyce Leigh and Steven Seibert, who was trailed closely by Ryan Thompson. Aaron Simpson was losing.


One of the tightest races of the night was for the third board seat in this district, which includes voters in El Paso, Elbert and Lincoln counties.

Six candidates vied for three seats on the board.

Retired teacher Lyle Batton was cruising to an easy win, and Tami Sisneros also was heading for a seat.

For the third seat, David Orcutt had a scant edge with 208 votes, but Kevin Gregg, with 204, and Dean Strouse, with 203, were close behind.

Bo Wade McKnight was trailing the field.

El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams said if the vote finished with two candidates within a half of a percent or less in separation, an automatic recount would be triggered.


Six newcomers were vying for three 4-year seats. James Eckleberry far outpaced his rivals, followed by Ed Holmes and Barton Hanks, who were narrowly edging out Sarah Noel and Mea Armstrong Miller.


Theresa Watson was leading, with Susan Waller Graham in second and Charron Schoenberger taking the final spot.

After serving on nine committees for the school district, Graham, 52, said she was "beyond thrilled" at the results.

"It will be nice to narrow it down, just to be on the school board," Graham said.

"I grew up here, I'm from here, and I love my superintendent - the old one and the new one," Graham said. "I just thought it was time (to run)."



Six districts had uncontested seats so did not hold school board elections:

Calhan District RJ-1

Three seats, four-year terms

Maria Herndon, Scott Mikita and Rachel Britton will serve another four years.

Cheyenne Mountain District 12

Two seats, four-year terms

Tom Neumann and Steve Parker will serve another four years.

Monica Peloso will finish a two-year term.

Edison District 54-JT

Two seats, four-year terms

Cheryl McComb, incumbent, and Susan Belveal will serve.

Lewis-Palmer District 38

Two seats, four-year terms

District 3: John Magerko Jr., incumbent (was appointed in 2012 to finishvacant seat); District 1: No candidates applied, director will be appointed after election.

Manitou Springs District 14

Two seats, four-year terms

Incumbents Molly Stevens, board president, and Gino Mendoza, vice president, will retain their seats.

Woodland Park School District RE-2

Three seats, four-year terms

District E: Incumbent Bill Blackburn will keep his seat. District B: Beth Huber, a new member, joins the board; District D: No candidates applied; director will be appointed after election.


Reporters tom roeder, jakob rodgers and jesse paul contributed to this report.

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