Colorado's off-year election will be this Tuesday, November 1st, a week before the rest of the country's off-year elections. There is a statewide ballot measure, Proposition 103. The other important races are the Aurora mayoral election and the Jefferson County School Board, where the Republicans are trying to politicize the non-partisan elections. And for those of you in one of the following areas, where there are propositions to ban medical marijuana dispensaries, make sure to vote (and vote no): Fort Collins, Palisades, Brush, Yampa, Oak Creek, Steamboat Springs, and Unincorporated Routt County. Otherwise, you'll end up like this:
IMPORTANT UPDATE: User stealthisbook astutely found another case of the GOP meddling in school board elections and I have found a couple more myself. See bottom of the page for updates.
Mayor Ed Tauer (R) is term-limited.
Former Councilman and state Rep. Steve Hogan (R)
Councilman and 2010 CO-7 LOSER!! Ryan Frazier (R)
Former state Rep. Debbie Stafford (D)
Former RTD Director and School Board Member Barbara Yamrick (I)
Businessman Jude Sandvall (R)
Sheilah Thomas Davis (Libertarian)
Background: The race is obstenibly non-partisan, but with former elected officials and candidates running, it's hard to keep it that way. Tauer's term-limit ends a 20-year Tauer dynasty (he succeeded his father Paul as mayor). He hasn't endorsed in the race, but his dad endorsed Hogan. Democratic turnout in off-years is anemic in minority-heavy Aurora, which allows Republicans to dominate the city. Some of the Republican councilmen represent districts dominated by Democrats all the way down to the state legislature, so it's not like many of these areas actually vote Republican. However, some Democratic support is still needed, which is why moderates like Tauer and Hogan tend to win. Hogan and Frazier are considered the frontrunners. Stafford became a Democrat during her final term in the legislature, Sandvall is a far-right nut, and the rest are longshots. The only poll released in the race is a Frazier internal conducted by Republican pollster Magellan on August 1-2. It had Frazier leading with 27%, Hogan with 14%, and Stafford with 11%, with the other polling at 4% or below. Hogan has been endorsed by the Denver Post, the AFL-CIO, former Republican Gov. Bill Owens, Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter, former Mayor Paul Tauer, and state Sen. Nancy Spence, possibly the only legitimate moderate Republican remaining in the legislature. Perlmutter likely did this just to piss off his 2010 opponent, Frazier, but Hogan is also probably the best candidate for the job.
Recommendation: Steve Hogan
Rating: Tossup/Tilt Hogan
Jefferson County School Board
JeffCo is the LARGEST school district in Colorado. If these two Republicans win, there will be a conservative majority. This is very important!
Summary: I normally don't care about these races, but the Jefferson County Republican Party has stepped forward to try to get two candidates elected. The Republican Party is backing Preston Branaugh and Jim Powers over the teachers union's preferred candidates, Democrats Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman. After the Republicans pulled a similar trick in Douglas County a couple years ago, they gained control and passed an unconstitutional voucher program, which is currently on hold with the ACLU suing to have it stopped, but I don't want to take any chances with this happening again if the judges don't rule our way. I don't have any prediction or rating for this one because I don't know enough about this low-level of offices.
Recommendation: Dahlkemper and Fellman
Summary: Prop 103, being pushed by state Sen. Rollie Heath (D-Boulder) seeks to increase state education funding by returning tax rates to pre-1999 levels for a five-year period, beginning in 2012. The income tax would be increased from 4.63% to 5% and the sales tax would rise from 2.9% to 3.0%. This is projected to raise an additional $2.9 billion over 5 years, including $536.1 million in FY2012. The proposition sets the $4.3 billion budgeted for education in FY2011 as a minimum, and also requires that all money raised from the tax increase also be directed to public education in addition to the $4.3 billion already set aside.
The main organization supporting it, Support Schools for a Bright Colorado, has raised $420K and has $181K CoH as of the last filing report on October 17. It began running this TV ad on 10/17 in the Denver market during newscasts on broadcast stations as well as on some cable channels.
The main group opposing it, Compass Colorado, was just formed a couple weeks ago, so there aren't details on the money side, but so far it has done statewide robo-calls and ran a one-week radio ad in Denver, Colorado Springs, and Grand Junction. It also ran a 10-day, $60K TV spot from 10/21-30 in Jefferson County against state Sen. Evie Hudak (D-Westminster) highlighting her support of Prop 103. Another opposition group, Too Taxing for Colorado, is airing radio ads in four markets: Denver Metro Area, the Western Slope, Larimer and Weld Counties, and El Paso County, in addition to statewide robo-calls. As of the last filing report, it had raised just $12K and had spent $1K on radio ads, but that has likely increased by a large amount.
The last time Colorado held a statewide off-year election was 2005, when Referendum C, which suspended TABOR tax refunds for 5 years, was on the ballot. It passed with 52.1% of the vote after an expensive and hard-fought campaign, with supporters spending $8 million and opponents spending $3.5 million. Clearly, the amount spent Prop 103 pales in comparison, which suggests it is unlikely to pass. Colorado conservatives are usually going nuts about any tax increase and the fact that the opposition seems to be minimal here suggests it is unlikely to pass. Secondly, Referendum C was a legislatively-referred initiative, passing the State House 46-19 (including 11 Republicans) and passing the State Senate 26-9 (including 8 Republicans). It also had the support of popular Republican Gov. Bill Owens and Lt. Gov. Jane Norton. Prop 103, on the other hand, has virtually no Republican support and popular Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has declined to take a side on the initiative. Heading into the final weekend, the Secretary of State's numbers show that party registration for those who have turned in their is 42% Republican, 33% Democrat, and 24% unaffiliated. For comparison, the state's active voter registration (meaning people who voted in 2010 or registered since then) is 37% Republican, 33% Democrat, and 29% unaffiliated. All of this evidence hints to me it will fail.
Rating: Likely Fails
More School Boards: (important!)
Weld County School District 6 (Greeley/Evans) (h/t stealthisbook)
4-year Term (vote for 3):
Incumbents: Mark Hinz (R) & Julia Richard (D)
Ken Buck and state Sen. Scott Renfroe endorsed two ultra-conservative challengers: Republicans Brett Elliott and Geoff Broughton. It is imperative that these two do not win. There are three other Republican challengers, Logan Richardson, Tim Pike, and Doug Lidiak, who was appointed to the board in 2009, but lost re-election that fall. There are also 4 Democratic challengers: Suzanne Doerner, Richard Reilly, Ed Spindler, and former board member Marlene Schuman. All seem like good progressives, but there isn't enough room for all of them. Of the Democratic challengers, it would be preferable to coalesce around two candidates, in addition to Richard. If forced to support a Republican to keep Elliott and Broughton off the board, Lidiak seems relatively moderate, and Hinz seems at least rational, but still not preferable. My take of the Democrats is that Schuman seems like a little too much of a power-hungry politician (and I'm not one to use that often) having been previously term-limited in 2007 and now seeking re-election 4 years later. Reilly's political positions seem great, but he is only 21 years old and seems like a flame-thrower, having tried to recall two board members for a no real reason. Spindler and Doerner, however, seem both very qualified and progressive. FWIW, I got all this information from here.
Recommendation: 1st, Re-elect Julia Richard. 2nd, of the Democratic challengers, my top choices would be Suzanne Doerner and Ed Spindler. 3rd, make sure Renfroe and Broughton lose, even if it means voting for Lidiak
2-year Term (vote for 1):
Buck and Renfroe are backing teabagger Scott Rankin (R). One other Republican, Jean Daviet, will appear on the ballot, but has dropped out. The two Democrats are former teacher Tannis Bator and former board member Valerie Leal-Whitehead. They both seem good, but this is another case where a split field can be bad. I'll go with Bator here because the school district has sucked and Leal-Whitehead was on the board, but I'm sure it wasn't necessarily her fault.
Recommendation: Tannis Bator
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
District 1: Antonio Esquibel (D) vs. Norm Jennings (R). Democrat Phil Corn is listed on the ballot but has withdrawn.
Recommendation: Antonio Esquibel
Adams County District 50
At-large (vote for 3): Democrats: Richard Pabon and Dino Valente; Republicans: James Bonner, Robert Landgraf, and Ruben Pacheco; Independent: Anthony Sisneros
Pabon, Landgraf, and Sisneros have been endorsed by STAND, so Sisneros seems credible enough in addition to the Democrats.
Recommendation: Pabon, Valente, and Sisneros
Brighton School District 27J
District 3: Russell Carr (R) vs. Donna Petrocco (I)
District 6: Virginia Guzman (D) is the incumbent. Challengers are Stanley Hiller (D), Audrey Slorf (R), and Michael Boutwell (I)
Recommendations: Petrocco for District 1 and Guzman for District 6
Douglas County School Board
District A: Craig Richardson (R), Kevin Reilly, and Susan Meek
Reilly strongly opposes the voucher program and union-busting and supports Prop 103. District C: Kevin Larsen (R) vs. Gail Frances
Frances also strongly opposes the voucher program and supports Prop 103.
District F: Justin Williams (R) vs. Susan McMahon
McMahon is opposed to the voucher program.
Despite being a Republican stronghold, the voucher program is not very popular in Douglas County. It has roughly 50/50 support, but the opposition is much more motivated, and many are appalled that it passed unanimously with a 9-0 vote despite such fierce opposition, giving the voucher opponents a shot at winning in this conservative area. Take in mind, however, that Michael Bennet won only 3 precincts in the entire county, so I'm not holding my breath.
Recommendations: Reilly, Frances, and McMahon