The closest race in the Douglas County School Board election came to a close after Andy Jones conceded to Susan Meek mid-morning on Nov. 6. Jones trailed Meek by roughly 2 percentage points as results were released throughout the night on Election Day. He held out hope until the following morning that results would swing in his favor.
"I'm excited to think about the work ahead of us," Meek said via text message. "What makes our democracy so amazing is how we come together after elections to govern and focus on the real work at hand — providing 68,000 students a future they deserve."
As of results posted by the Colorado Secretary of State's Office at 4 a.m. the morning after Election Day, Distric A candidate Meek led Jones 51.1% to 48.9%, with 80,339 votes counted.
Jones said it was an emotional loss for his campaign and supporters, particularly because it was close.
"I'm most disappointed for the people who really pinned their hopes on me," Jones said. "I ran a great campaign with great supporters and people who were so passionate about the education of their kids and their school district and just the feeling that they don't have a voice in this school district."
Meek said she was impressed with the community support and the desire to move the district in a positive direction that she saw throughout her campaign.
Jones vowed to stay involved in the community and continue advocating for the issues he campaigned on, including school security and supporting charter schools.
As of 10:42 p.m. Nov. 5, Douglas County had counted 93,461 votes, representing the vast majority of ballots cast.
The other two school board races showed clear winners on Election Night.
Elizabeth Hanson led Franceen Thompson in District C 59.5% to 40.5%. Incumbent and board president David Ray led his challenger, Kory Nelson, 54.3% to 45.7%.
Nelson was home and ready to concede to Ray shortly before 10 p.m., although he had not called his opponent yet, he said. Nelson said he was proud to secure more than 45% of the vote.
"(Ray) did not win a super majority of our population, and I hope he takes that to heart," Nelson said.
Thompson, in a statement provided to Colorado Community Media, thanked her supporters and volunteers for their work on her campaign.
"This wasn't the outcome we wanted, but we ran a clean campaign based on the issues," she said.
As the first election results trickled in shortly after voting closed on Election Night, supporters at a watch party for Douglas County School Board candidates Ray, Meek and Hanson burst into screams, celebrating. All three candidates led in their respective races from initial results.
"I'm overwhelmed, it's very exciting," Hanson said at the time.
Ray was the only incumbent who ran for reelection. District A Director Wendy Vogel and District C Director Anne-Marie Lemieux did not seek a second term.
The newly elected directors must be sworn in within 10 days after election results are certified, but the district has not set an exact date for the ceremony, a spokeswoman said. Results must be certified by Nov. 29, according to the county website.
Candidates steered clear of calling themselves slates but two camps emerged throughout the election.
Ray, Meek and Hanson pooled resources and dubbed themselves a “team.” The three garnered support from the Douglas County teachers' union and political committee Douglas County Parents.
First elected in 2015, Ray serves as the board president. The Parker resident said he was running to continue the work he and other candidates elected in 2015 pursued since then, like improving teacher retention.
Hanson, of Highlands Ranch, leaned on her career in human resources and employment law and said she hoped to improve the district's work environment. She has three children in elementary school and is therefore invested in the district's long-term success, she said.
Meek entered the race with deep knowledge of Douglas County schools, having worked in the district for six years. The Highlands Ranch resident is the director of strategic engagement and communications for the Colorado Association of School Boards.
Meanwhile, Nelson and Jones were vocal supporters of one another during their campaigns and suggested Thompson would bring good perspective to the board as well. The three knew each other but not well, Jones told Colorado Community Media in October.
Thompson, a Highlands Ranch resident, promised a conservative voice on the board who would “give voice to the majority of Douglas County taxpayers.” Jones, also of Highlands Ranch, said he aimed to improve relationships between the district, teachers and families. Nelson, an attorney who lives in Parker, said his wife who is a teacher and his daughter who is a student in the district inspired him to run.
School safety was a key issue in the campaign.
Thompson chose to run after her children's school, STEM School Highlands Ranch, fell victim to a school shooting tragedy in May. She argued all security options should be considered by directors and promised not to let politics interfere with which options she considered.
Jones is an airline pilot who served in the military for 30 years. From that experience, Jones said he would bring a “never-seen level of security expertise” to the board.
Nelson argued his work on a school safety committee created by the Douglas County commissioners after STEM and his advocacy for more school resource officers also gave him expertise in the area of school safety.
All three candidates said they would be open to discussing arming teachers and staff.
Ray, Meek and Hanson stood staunchly opposed to arming staff and teachers. They support the district's safe schools policy and said security measures should draw from evidence-based practices. Arming teachers and staff is not expert-recommended, the candidates said.
Elliott Wenzler and Nick Puckett contributed to the reporting of this story.
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