Campaign funds tell different stories in school board race

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Two wealthy school-choice advocates from outside Douglas County have provided almost all the campaign contributions for the four school-board candidates supporting the direction of the current board.

Oilman Alex Cranberg, of Austin, Texas, and investment fund president Ralph Nagel, of Denver, have donated about 90 percent of the campaign dollars collected by current board supporters Doug Benevento, Jim Geddes, Judi Reynolds and Meghann Silverthorn. Each of the four candidates got a combined $35,000 from Cranberg and Nagel.

Those large, non-local donations are among the stark contrasts in the school-board race revealed by the Colorado Secretary of State’s Oct. 15 campaign-finance reports.

In all, the four candidates who support the current board’s policies have raised about $157,000, nearly four times as much as the opposing slate’s accumulated $42,500.

Most of the donations to opposition candidates Barbra Chase, Bill Hodges, Julie Keim and Ronda Scholting — who support a change in the current board’s direction — are in small increments of $50 or less. The vast majority of those identified contributions are from Douglas County residents.

Chase, Hodges, Keim and Scholting received a combined 556 individual donations, dwarfing the 84 total checks written to the pro-board candidates.

Pro-board candidates also received a total of $12,000 from three other sources — current board member Craig Richardson, Colorado Christian University president William Armstrong and Carrie Morgridge, vice president of the private, education-focused Morgridge Family Foundation.

If not for contributions from the outside sources and board member Richardson, the four board backers’ combined tally would stand at under $5,000 — less than the contributions given to the lowest-funded opposition candidate, Julie Keim, who took in $7,120.

As of Oct. 18, the campaign websites of two pro-board candidates, Doug Benevento and Jim Geddes, did not offer a mechanism to contribute to their campaigns.

Oil and gas entrepreneur Cranberg is chairman of Aspect Holdings LLC. Nagel is the president of investment fund Top Rock LLC, founder of the Meridian Retirement Communities, and a member of the University of Denver board of trustees.

Cranberg and Nagel co-founded and serve on the board for the Denver-based nonprofit, Alliance for Choice in Education (ACE).

Cranberg donated $25,000 to each of the four pro-board candidates, and Nagel $10,000 to each.

On the opposition side, Boulder-based Democratic Congressman Jared Polis gave $1,000 to Scholting’s campaign. Scholting is to date the only opposition candidate to receive a four-figure donation.

Notable donations to the opposing slate include $500 each from Taxpayers for Public Education president Cindy Barnard, a plaintiff in the Douglas County voucher lawsuit. Former Douglas County Schools Superintendent Jim Christensen donated $500 to Hodges.

Scholting, with$15,527 in campaign contributions, so far has received the most financial support of the four opposition candidates.

The numbers reflect the Colorado Secretary of State’s first campaign-finance reporting period, showing funds raised through early October.

To see the campaign finance reports, go online to tracer.sos.colorado.gov, click on “Search” and then on “Candidate search.”

Fundraising by candidate:

Here is the total amount raised by candidates supporting the current school board:

Benevento: $40,010 (23 donations)

Geddes: $38,797.50 (12 donations)

Judi Reynolds: $38,731.50 (22 donations)

Silverthorn: $39,162.50 (27 donations)

Total: $156,701.50 (84 donations)

Here is the total amount raised by candidates supporting a change in the board’s direction:

Chase: $8,234.97 (82 donations)

Hodges: $11,444.93 (116 donations)

Julie Keim: $7,121.98 (95 donations)

Scholting, $15,526.97 (263 donations)

Total: $42,328.85 (556 donations)