The Douglas County school board elections are turning into an oddly partisan affair, one that pits Republicans against Republicans in an ugly campaign that speaks to the hyper-partisan language and tactics that are coming to define the GOP in Glenn Beck’s America.
Meanwhile, the Douglas County Teachers Federation has endorsed the four opponents: incumbents Emily Hansen and Kristine Turner, along with Sue Catterall and Kevin Leung—several of whom are also Republicans. (The current make-up of the board is 6 Republicans, 1 Democrat.)
The GOP is ponying up plenty of money for its endorsed candidates, too: The Douglas County Republicans have given about $13,000 in in-kind services to the conservative four. Ralph Nagel—Denver investor, artist, regular GOP contributor and board chair of the Alliance for Choice in Education—has contributed to three conservative candidates, for a total of $15,000. By contrast, the teachers’ union has donated about $7,500 to its candidates.
Rumors concerning the GOP Four may well be unfounded: that they plan to convert Douglas County to an all-charter school district, get rid of teacher contracts and appoint former congressman “Big Oil” Bob Schaffer to the superintendent’s post.
But it’s clear where they’re coming from: a newsletter(pdf) written by Christa Huff, District 6 Captain for the Douglas County Republicans, acknowledges that the four GOP-endorsed candidates were recruited by the party to run as a “conservative bloc” in the hopes of gaining a voting majority. The four list their goals as transparency, fiscal responsibility and the promotion of charter schools.
On the “Moms Like Me” blog, candidate Kevin Leung—a longtime active Republican who did not earn the GOP nod—voices his frustration with the Republican attempts to frame the race as a fight between union liberals and GOP conservatives:
My Party boss now has accused me [of being] a handpicked candidate by the union even though I have not received a dime of donation from the teachers’ union.
Indeed, several candidates have voiced the opinion that they are not a “union bloc”—they’re simply four people with different platforms who happen to have been endorsed by the union—and coincidentally not endorsed by the GOP.
But the GOP is working equally hard to make this race about endorsements. In advance of the election, it has sent out emails with graphs indicating the different “blocs.” The language of the email text attempts to frame the election as a clear battle between the GOP-endorsed conservatives and those endorsed by the teachers’ union (people who must then be “liberals”).
This election is non-partisan; that is, party affiliation (Republican or Democrat) will not be indicated alongside candidate names on the ballot. Candidates are not vetted by the political parties through Colorado’s traditional caucus and assembly process. However, sides have been staked out for these races by the two general political philosophies of conservative and liberal.
At Rocky Mountain Right, lawyer Mike Robinson takes things further, with the disingenuous argument that the American Federation of Teachers (the parent of the Douglas County teachers’ union) is actually the group trying to gain control here (though he prefers the provocative phrase “gobble up”).
According to Robinson’s narrative, upon being elected, the union-supported candidates will unionize all the district charter schools. He is less clear about how they will advance the rest of their alleged anti-liberty agenda, but the plan appears somehow to involve leveraging their school board power to pass a public option in the U.S. Congress and cede control of the district directly to Obama. Thus, writes Robinson:
If you like Government Health Care, unionized Charter Schools and Barack Obama, go with the union picked candidates.
If you don’t want Government Health Care, unionized Charters or the direction the country is heading, go with the Republican endorsed candidates.
Hat tip to EdNews Colorado.