Three of the nine seats on the University of Colorado Board of Regents are up for election this year, and at least two will be filled with new members. Up for grabs are seats in Congressional Districts 2, 6 and 7.
The CU Board of Regents is Colorado’s only elected higher-education board, established in Colorado’s original 1876 constitution. The regents hold voluntary unpaid positions that influence key decisions with the the state’s most prominent public university.
This race is of particular importance, as these regents likely will help elect the next president of CU. Current university president Bruce Benson has become the longest-serving CU president in more than 50 years. Benson will mark seven years with the university in March. His tenure began with some tension, as not all of the regents or faculty were in full support of a politician from the private sector running the state’s oldest educational institution. Benson has been pivotal in raising money for the university, especially against the backdrop of a weak economy. Research money has also hit record high numbers under Benson’s leadership.
Increased tuition is generally the primary issue for regents: Tuition during the 1999-2000 academic year was $2,444, not including fees. This academic year, in-state tuition has jumped to $9,048 — a 270% increase in 15 years. The cost of education, a lack of state funding and the question of whether university regents should have more accountability and transparency have become the issues for the candidates and constituents.
The regents oversee the university budget, which sits at more than $3.2 billion, with just 5.1 percent of the budget coming from state funds. CU has more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students in more than 100 programs.
The 2nd Congressional District is in the north-central part of the state and encompasses the northwestern suburbs of Denver, including Boulder, Northglenn, Thornton and Westminster. The district also includes the towns of Vail, Grand Lake, Idaho Springs, Fort Collins and Loveland.
In this district, Joe Neguse is vacating his seat to run for secretary of state.
Democrat Linda Shoemaker, a CU alum, business attorney and philanthropist, is campaigning on “affordability, accountability and accessibility.” Shoemaker has sat as the president of the Brett Family Foundation and serves on the CU Foundation Board of Trustees and is also the former president of Boulder Valley School District Board of Education. Her commitment to CU and the Boulder community is apparent, even down to her listed hobbies, which include hiking and practicing yoga.
Republican Kim McGahey, a real-estate developer from Breckenridge, told the Boulder Daily Camera his heroes are Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Jesus Christ. McGahey is running on the idea that the best plan for CU-Boulder is “transforming the university from one of the top 10 party schools in the country into one of the top 10 academic universities in the country” by scrutinizing new projects for “cost efficiency and academic worthiness.” He plans to “review professor compensation and benefits packages for fiscal responsibility and performance competence.”
Libertarian Daniel Ong supports carrying weapons on campus and posted his opinions of on-campus violence against women on his website: “Violence against women is a major problem off-campus, not on-campus. CU is already doing about the right amount toward addressing this situation on-campus; there are even brochures in the UCB Arts and Sciences Advising Office.” Ong also offers a relief plan for part-time students who are charged a higher rate per credit hour than full-time students.
The 6th Congressional District is in central Colorado and encompasses much of the southern part of the Denver-Aurora metropolitan area, including Littleton and Centennial, as well as Brighton and Henderson.
In the 6th Congressional District, Jim Geddes is vacating the seat when his six-year term ends in January. This is one of the more closely watched races, as the candidates support very different approaches to help solve CU-Boulder’s financial woes.
Democratic candidate Naquetta Ricks, a CU alum, a first-generation African immigrant and single mother who launched her own financial-services business (The Ricks Group LLC), believes change should begin with the regents, focusing on the needs of the students instead of ideologies among the members. Ricks has worked in the community as a member of the Aurora Chamber of Commerce and as a vice chairwoman of the board of the Aurora Public School Educational Foundation, and currently serves as treasurer of the African-American Initiative of the Colorado Democratic Party. Ricks thinks better education for Coloradans starts with affordability, efficiency and community.
Ricks’ challenger is Republican John Carson, also a CU alum. Carson stresses the importance of fiscal responsibility but highlights the idea that athletics bring money to universities, though he has not been specific about changes he would make to the department. “Athletics are important to a well-rounded education, and top athletic teams … raise private funding for the University contributing to an affordable education for all students,” he says.
The 7th Congressional District is in the central part of the state; the district encompasses most of the northern and western parts of the Denver-Aurora metropolitan area, including Golden, Lakewood, Arvada and Westminster.
The 7th CD seat is held by vice chairwoman Irene Griego, who was appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2011 and elected in 2012. She is up against Libertarian Steve Golter. Griego, a CU alum, is focusing on four main areas in her re-election campaign: “Keeping tuition as low as possible, supporting faculty and staff, promoting transparency in all Board of Regent actions, (and) ensuring that the CU budget is spent efficiently and in the best interest of our students.” Griego would like the regents to be clearer about budget and policy decisions that impact students and their families.
Golter hasn’t listed his views or campaign issues and does not have a website available for contact information.