There are two decisions that Denver voters make on this year's mail in ballot. School board races and Issue 300 (an anti-immigrant measure dealing with car impoundments). I previously covered the issue here. Ballots arrive at voter's doors this week and must make their way back to election officials by November 3.
The candidates for the school board race were profiled by the Denver Post here. Every Internet news source you could possibly want in the race can be found here.
The two biggest players in the race are a group of men connected to a trucking company on one side (supporting Seawell, Garcia and Jones) and the Denver Classroom Teachers Union on the other (supporting Scott, Merida and Easley).
A candidate's attitude towards charter schools is probably the key issue driving decisions to support particular candidates. While none of the candidates outright oppose charter schools or favor radical change in the balance between district run and charter schools, Scott annd Merida (and uncontested Kaplan in District 3) are decidedly more lukewarm about them, and Easley makes a point of pushing for a strong neighborhood school option (i.e. non-charter school) for every child.
Notably, the Denver Classroom Teacher's Association, whose slate of candidates in the last election was decidedly underwhelming, has put forward a slate of much better qualified candidates this year.
* Two candidates are running in the at large race, Mary A. Seawell and Christopher Scott. Deborah Sims Fard was running for the at large race, but withdrew.
Mary Seawell is the favorite in this race with endorsements from Mayor Hickenlooper, both at large school board incumbents, a host of current and former state and local elected officials from Denver, and three key unions, and a dramatic fundraising advantage. About half of her funds come from four men affliated with Timpte Inc., a trucking business, which has been a major patron of Cole Arts and Science Academy in North Denver. Seawell is an education consultant.
Christopher Scott, seems like a competent good guy, but doesn't have the army of well organized support lined up behind him. His is the candidate of choice of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, however, the primary union representing teachers in Denver, as well as two incumbent DPS Board members, Arturo Jimenez, who is stepping down from District 5, and Jeanne Kaplan, who is running unopposed in District 3. Scott is a business consultant.
While it is hard to tell the policy differences between the two candidates, I trust the good political judgment of many of the people who have endorsed Seawell and join in supporting her in the at large school district race. Lining up support and having big networks of influential people available to you are crucial assets, in and of themselves, for a school board member.
I won't express an opinion in the other two school board races, in which I do not have a vote.
* Two candidates are running in the District 2 race (Michelle Moss in the incumbent in this open Southwest Denver seat): Ismael Garcia and Andrea E. Merida. Both candidates appear reasonably qualified and are community leaders. They appear to have similar levels of support.
Merida is supported by unopposed incumbent DPS Board member Jeanne Kaplan, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association; outgoing incumbent DPS member Arturo Jimenez, and the United Food and Commercial Workers. She is a web designer.
Garcia's support has come from businessmen including Phil Anschutz, Thomas Gamel of Rockmount Capital (who also supported Seawell), Steven Halstedt founder of Centennial Ventures founder; and Richard Saunders of Saunders Construction. Gracia is also supported by DPS School Board President Theresa Pena and Linda Childears, CEO of the Daniels Fund. Garcia is a community college administrator and is ordained as a minister.
* Five candidates are running in the District 5 race (Arturo Jimenez is the incumbent in this open Northwest Denver seat): Alton Clark, Nate Easley Jr., Vernon Jones Jr., Andrea Mosby and Jacqueline Shumway.
Veron Jones Junior's biggest supporters are the men associated with Timpte, Inc. (who also support Seawell). Also notable are Kristin Richardson, chair of the DPS Foundation board; former City Council President Elbra Wedgeworth; Anna Jo Haynes, Mile High Montessori president; and David Greenberg, founding board member of the Denver School of Science and Technology. Jones is a pastor.
Nate Easley Jr. is backed by the American Federation of Teachers Colorado, Public Education Committee of the CEA, and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association. Easley is Deputy Director, Denver Scholarship Foundation.
The other three candidates have far smaller dollar campaigns. Jacqueline Shuway, the only candidate for the District 5 seat who is not African American, has received small donations from Joel Judd, D-Denver, Denver City Council member Marcia Johnson and Denver City Council member Carla Madison. Alton Clark has not solicited any donations and spent very little on his campaign. Andrea Mosby didn't file a campaign finance report and skipped a candidate's forum on September 23. None of these three responded to a questionaire from Education News Colorado to which all of the other candidates in contested races did respond.
* The other districts in the Denver Public Schools (1, 3 and 4) are either uncontested (3) and have no seats up for election this year (1 and 4).
* Issue 300 is opposed by the City and almost everyone who has spoke out about it, including me. Zero tolerance policies useful produce bad results, and this would cost the city money that it doesn't have to spare.