You may recall that just before the election at the beginning of this month we talked about the school board recall initiative in Jefferson County, Colorado. Three conservative board members had been elected in 2013 and they had proceeded to work on school choice initiatives, expanded support for charter schools and a variety of other agenda items which completely outraged the teachers unions. The ensuing battle over attempts to have them recalled was epic, bringing in millions of dollars for campaign war chests on both sides, with the national teachers unions facing off against Americans for Prosperity and a few other backers on the side of the conservatives.
In the midst of all the other news which broke in the wake of the election we never got around to catching up on that race, but to make a long story short… the unions won decisively. (WaPo)
In a striking upset, voters in suburban Denver on Tuesday recalled three conservative members of a school board who had worked to weaken the local teachers union while boosting funding for charter schools and pushing through other market-driven policy changes for public schools.
By a margin of 64 percent to 36 percent, voters opted to replace Julie Williams, Ken Witt and John Newkirk, who had been elected in 2013 to form a majority power bloc on the five-member Jefferson County school board. About 40 percent of registered voters turned out.
“It looks decisive,” Witt said Tuesday night, moments after he conceded.
Ron Mitchell, who won Witt’s seat, said the new board will take the county in a new direction. “Our mission will not be to privatize and charterize and voucherize our schools,” he said.
This recall election turned out 180K votes for JeffCo school district R-1 in an odd numbered year. Compare that to the turnout for a different ballot initiative for the same school district in 2012 for a presidential election. They managed around 270K. Any of you who follow elections on a regular basis have already caught on to the remarkable nature of this. That’s a simply insane turnout for an odd numbered year. They didn’t just get all of the four in four voters… they managed to get most of the two in four and a fair number of the one in four constituents.
Even more to the point, as we discussed prior to the election, this isn’t just any random county out west. Colorado is evenly enough divided that we color it purple, but it has its blue city centers and red rural areas like most states. These are the suburbs which are fought over vigorously by campaigns. In that battle the two sides were both able to muster a huge GOTV effort, but the Democrats came out on top. Hillary has been courting the teachers unions heavily this year in one of her latest flip flops so you can expect them to be out in force trying to win this same region for her next year. If the GOP can’t find a way to counter that union money and their volunteers, it’s going to slip away again.
Just take this small time school board race as a warning sign. Round one went to the Democrats.