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Ed groups bat .785 on endorsements

The five education groups that endorsed or contributed to legislative candidates in the general election picked the winners at an overall rate of 78.5 percent.

Five organizations – the Colorado Education Association, American Federation of Teachers-Colorado, the Colorado Association of School Executives, Stand for Children and Democrats for Education Reform – backed legislative candidates. (The school executives only endorsed; political committees affiliated with the other groups gave financial contributions. Stand didn’t give money to every candidate it endorsed.)

Here’s the scorecard by organization:

  • CEA – Contributed to 41 candidates; 31 of those won. 75.6 percent.
  • AFT – Contributed to 42 candidates; 31 of those won. 73.8 percent.
  • CASE – Endorsed 32 candidates; 27 of those won. 84.3 percent.
  • Stand – Endorsed or contributed to 18 candidates; 15 of those won. 83.3 percent.
  • DFER – Contributed to only two Democratic Senate candidates; both won. 100 percent.

See bottom of story for charts showing endorsements and results by candidate.It’s risky, of course, to draw conclusions about the impact of one group’s endorsement or contributions in a single district. Legislative races, particularly hotly contested ones, draw endorsements, contributions and volunteers from a wide variety of interest groups, not just ones interested in education.

And, endorsements and contributions also can be made for reasons other than trying to influence the vote. The five groups combined made 135 endorsements or contributions to 68 candidates in 63 Senate and House races. Of those candidates, about 30 were incumbents and some challengers who were expected to win easily. Three incumbents who ran unopposed even earned endorsements.

Of the contributions and endorsements by the five groups, 90 percent went to Democrats. CASE endorsed eight incumbent Republicans, all of whom were considered to be safe and all of whom in fact won.

Stand for Children endorsed five members of the GOP, two incumbents and three challengers. Two challengers were victorious and one lost; both incumbents won. Stand also endorsed Rep. Kathleen Curry of Gunnison, a Democrat turned independent who ultimately lost to Democrat Roger Wilson after a lengthy review of Curry’s write-in votes.

The five groups were involved in a majority of the legislative races on the ballot – 47 of 65 House contests and 16 of 19 Senate races. (Because senators serve four-year terms, an additional 16 Senate seats weren’t up for election this year this year.)

There was only one race where all five groups backed the same candidate – Democratic Senate Majority Leader John Morse in Colorado Springs’ Senate District 11. He won a narrow victory over Republican former Air Force officer Owen Hill after a high-spending race.

In Senate District 20, which stretches from Golden on the west to Edgewater on the east, all the education groups but CASE supported Democratic former state Rep. Cheri Jahn, who beat Republican small businessman John Odom.

Stand for Children and the two unions also supported victorious Democratic lawyer Pete Lee in House District 18, the Colorado Springs seat formerly held by Democrat Mike Merrifield, chair of the House Education Committee.

Here’s a look at some other key races where education groups endorsed or contributed:

In House District 3, which includes south Denver and part of Arapahoe County, incumbent Democrat Daniel Kagan, who voted against Senate Bill 10-191, defeated Republican Christine Mastin. CEA and CASE supported Kagan, while Stand backed Mastin.

Democratic retired teacher Laura Huerta lost to Republican incumbent Kevin Priola, a member of the House Education Committee, in Adams County’s House District 30. Both unions contributed to Huerta, while CASE and Stand for Children endorsed Priola, who voted for Senate Bill 10-191.

Keith Swerdfeger
Keith Swerdfeger

Retired Pueblo Education Association President Carole Partin lost the House District 47 seat in Pueblo County to Republican construction executive Keith Swerdfeger. The seat had been held by a Democrat. The two unions backed Partin, while Stand supported Swerdfeger. The two candidates together raised about $200,000, with more than $126,000 of that raised by Swerdfeger, who lost a bid for the seat two years ago.

Stand’s $4,000 contribution to Swerdfeger was one of the largest he received. In addition to money from the CEA political group the Public Education Committee, Partin also received contributions from CEA affiliates in Denver, Pueblo and Jefferson County.

Partin and Huerta were the only two Democratic newcomer candidates with extensive teaching backgrounds.

In another race that pitted education groups against each other, outgoing state Rep. Ellen Roberts, a Durango lawyer, defeated appointed Democratic incumbent Bruce Whitehead of Hesperus, a water engineer Senate District 6. The GOP has a modest registration edge, and Roberts has been in office longer than Whitehead. Both AFT and CEA contributed to Whitehead and CASE endorsed him, while Stand for Children endorsed Roberts. Whitehead voted against SB 10-191; Roberts for it.

In House District 56, centered on Summit County, Democratic Rep. Christine Scanlan was re-elected. The prime Democratic House sponsor of SB 10-191, she was backed by the AFT, Case and Stand. (Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver and the primary author of SB 10-191, won an easy victory over a nominal opponent in his Denver district. He was endorsed by CASE and Stand.)

Rep. Debbie Benefield, D-Arvada
Rep. Debbie Benefield, D-Arvada

In Jefferson County’s House District 29, incumbent Democrat Debbie Benefield lost narrowly to Republican Robert Ramirez in a race that was called only last week after provisional ballots had been counted. Benefield, a longtime parent and district activist, was a member of the House Education Committee and was backed by CEA, AFT and CASE.

In addition to Benefield and Whitehead, incumbents who voted against SB 10-191 and who lost included Democratic Reps. Dennis Apuan of Colorado Springs, Sara Gagliardi of Arvada and Dianne Primavera of Broomfield.

Two supporters of SB 10-191 lost their races, Curry and Rep. Joe Rice, D-Littleton. (Rice’s lead role in a bill that raised auto registration fees was seen as a factor in his defeat.)

Of Democratic incumbents backed by both teachers’ unions, 16 won and four lost.

Eleven non-incumbent Democrats were supported by both CEA and AFT; seven won and four lost.

Seven incumbents who were backed only by CEA won re-election, and one lost. Both of the Democratic newcomers supported only by CEA lost.

Four other education groups that are active in legislative lobbying and in some ballot measure campaigns do not endorse candidates. They are the Colorado Association of School Boards, the Colorado PTA, the Colorado League of Charter Schools and Great Education Colorado.

Final 2010 campaign contribution and spending reports are due to the secretary of state by Dec. 2.

Support and results by House, Senate district

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Information about endorsements and contributions was compiled from campaign spending reports filed with the secretary of state and from information provided by some of the groups. Search financial reports on the state website.

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