Two wealthy men, both strong advocates of school choice and vouchers, have provided $140,000 of the $199,000 contributed to eight candidates in four contentious races for the Douglas County school board.

Pile of cashAll of the $100,000 contributed by Alex Cranberg and the $40,000 given by Ralph Nagel has gone to four candidates who support the policies of the current Dougco board, which created a voucher program now on hold because of legal challenges and which ended the district’s collective bargaining agreement with the teachers union.

Those four candidates are opposed by a group of four challengers who have criticized the current board for its use of executive sessions, financial policies and on other issues.

The pro-board candidates have raised $156,700, compared to $42,328 for the challengers. The challengers have drawn much larger numbers of small individual donations than have the pro-board candidates.

If the Cranberg and Nagel contributions are deducted, the pro-board group has raised only $16,700. And $12,000 of that has come from three other donors to the pro-board candidates — Bill Armstrong, former Republican U.S. senator and president of Colorado Christian University; lawyer Craig Richardson, and philanthropist Carrie Morgridge.

Cranberg, a former Colorado resident who now lives in Texas, is chair of Aspect Holdings, a Denver-based energy company. He’s a long time advocate of school vouchers. Nagel is president of Top Rock LLC, a Denver-based investment company. Both are board members of ACE Scholarships, a Denver non-profit that provides scholarships to low-income students to attend private schools.

Here’s a rundown on campaign spending reports filed this week by pro-board Dougco candidates:

  • District B, Jim Geddes – $38,797 raised and $11,140 spent
  • District D, Judith Reynolds – $38,731 raised, $8,402 spent
  • District E, Doug Benevento – $40,010 raised $1,094 spent
  • District G – Meghann Silverthorne – $39,162 raised, $15,526 spent

Here are the totals reported by candidates critical of the current board:

  • District B, Barbra Chase – $8,234 raised, $2,628 spent
  • District D, Julie Keim – $7,121 raised, $3,792 spent
  • District E, Bill Hodges – $11,444 raised, $5,914 spent
  • District G, Ronda Scholting – $15,526 raised, $6,057 spent

Giving in other board races

Ideology and partisanship also are factors in a handful of other board races around the state this year.

In Grand Junction, the county Republican Party has endorsed three candidates in races for the Mesa 51 school board. Those candidates, Patrick Kanda, Michael Lowenstein and John Sluder each have received $5,000 from C. Edward McVaney of Greenwood Village, a retired software company owner. McVaney also is on the board of ACE Scholarships and was a founder of Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch.

Three other Mesa 51 candidates, John Williams, Tom Parrish and Greg Mikolai have received contributions from the Mesa Valley Education Association and the Public Education Committee, an arm of the Colorado Education Association.

Seven candidates are vying for three seats in Mesa 51, where the total of all contributions is about $46,000.

McVaney also has contributed $5,000 each to three candidates in Thompson school district board races. A group named Liberty Watch has criticized the current school board for various policies and has endorsed four candidates in the district’s four races. McVaney contributed to three of them.

Contributions to the nine candidates on the ballot total about $33,000.

There are partisan overtones in the three Jefferson County school board races this fall, where the county GOP has endorsed three candidates. But there’s little outside money in the races, and those three candidates trail in fundraising. The total raised by all candidates is about $120,000.

Here’s a rundown on their contributions:

  • District 1, Julie Williams – Raised $5,756 and spent $470. Has received primarily small individual contributions.
  • District 2, John Newkirk – Raised $4,255 and spent $1,902. Has received $500 from Armstrong and $215 from the Jefferson County Republican Men’s Club.
  • District 5, Ken Witt – Raised $10,148, spent $2,389. Received $500 from Armstrong.

Here’s a look at the other candidates in the races:

  • District 1, Tonya Aultmann-Bettridge – Raised $25,017, spent $15,759.
  • District 2, Jeff Lamontagne – Raised $39,822, spent $34,787.
  • District 5, Gordon Van de Water – Raised $35,380, spent $3,763.

All three of these candidates had large numbers of relatively small donations from individual contributors. Each also has received a contribution of $3,166 from the Public Education Committee, according to that group’s report.

Around the state, the committee’s Oct. 15 filing reported $49,891 in total contributions to 26 candidates running in 10 districts.

In addition to Jeffco, Mesa and Thompson, the committee has donated to candidates in Aurora, Adams 12-Five Star, Commerce City, Falcon, Littleton and Pueblo 60 races.